- Wyoming is in the process of formulating regulations for mobile sports betting by September 1, 2021.
- Governor Mark Gordon signed HB 0133 into law on April 5.
- Based on the wording of the bill Wyoming could soon have one of the best regulatory frameworks for sports betting in the United States.
April has brought a lot of news in the sports betting world–some of it expected, like New York finding a way to screw up mobile betting. There was plenty that was completely unexpected–like Wyoming setting the groundwork for what looks to be one of the best regulatory frameworks for sports betting in the United States. Wyoming is a big, beautiful and expansive environment with the smallest population of any US state–just 578,759 by 2019 estimates. This fortunate half million or so residents could soon find themselves in a Top 5 sports betting jurisdiction–at least in terms of what it offers players.
You can make a case that Wyoming’s small population footprint helped them avoid the mistakes–witting or unwitting–that so many other states make. A small population means less corrupt cronyism like in Connecticut where the Governor essentially chopped up sports betting amongst the status quo gaming industry. The sheer size of the state combined with its small population and limited number of cities and towns made a retail focused sports betting scheme impossible. Aside from a small horse racing industry there’s little in the way of legacy gaming interests to get ‘juiced in’ at the expense of the citizens of the state. Population notwithstanding, most of the credit has to go to the legislators that put the bill together. Montana isn’t much more populous than Wyoming but found a way to make a mess of legal sports betting when it looked for awhile that they’d do it right.
Wyoming does have a state lottery but successfully managed to avoid the first potential pitfall–instead of making the easy but disastrous choice to put sports betting under the auspices of the lottery they established a gaming commission. That was Montana’s biggest mistake–handing sports betting over so the state lottery could make it just another gimmick game. One of the first orders of business for the gaming commission will be to build out the regulatory framework for sports betting and they’ve got a chance to make Wyoming the best sports betting jurisdiction in the US. Obviously, they’ll never be near the top of the gaming revenue hit parade but in terms of quality the die has been cast.
WYOMING’S INTELLIGENT AND ELEGANT APPROACH TO SPORTS BETTING REGULATION
Without any existing ‘powers that be’ clamoring to protect their ‘pie’ Wyoming did the right but all too rare thing: they opted for an open, competitive marketplace. No arbitrary limits on the number of gaming licenses or the companies that can apply for them. The have a very simple litmus test for companies that want to set up shop in Wyoming–they have to be licensed in at least three other US jurisdictions. Three is a completely reasonable number though there will hopefully be some type of process under which companies can request a waiver. I can think of a few fully competent bookmakers that currently operate in just two states such as Elite Sportsbook (Colorado, Iowa). Nevada based Circa Sports is one of the most influential bookmakers in the US and for the time being at least they’re only in two states (Nevada, Colorado) though they’re expected to launch in Iowa soon. The gaming commission will also have to make the determination if the ‘three states’ stipulation means that a book is operational in three states or licensed in three states. At any rate, three is a very reasonable number and will give a green light to most legitimate companies while preventing a fiasco like we’ve seen in Tennessee where a payday loan company with no gaming background managed to get licensed. Even for a startup sportsbook, getting licensed in three states is highly realistic.
Wyoming also resisted the temptation to try and extract as much money as possible through taxes and licensing fees. The fee structure in Wyoming is such that any legitimate sports betting provider really doesn’t have an excuse *not* to launch in the state–initial licensing fees will be $100,000 and good for five years with subsequent renewal fees at $50,000. The 10% tax rate is a bit higher than I’d like but it’s important to keep in mind that sportsbooks won’t be sharing their revenue with a third party ‘access provider’ from the legacy gaming industry as they do in most states. ‘Net net’, the 10% tax rate in Wyoming is functionally less of a financial bite than New Jersey’s 8.5% or even Iowa’s 6.75%.
The Wyoming Gaming Commission has been tasked with fleshing out sports betting regulations by September 1, 2021 and hopefully they’ll look to the South–more specifically, look to Colorado and co-opt much of their regulatory framework. This state of the process is crucial and pointless restrictions on bet types or an unnecessarily limited sports catalog could undo all of the good baked into the Wyoming plan. Given the ‘light touch’ they’ve already demonstrated and their clear desire for a competitive marketplace I’m guardedly optimistic that they won’t screw it up here. Assuming they get this part right, the sky is the limit for Wyoming sports betting. Obviously, the population does put some limits on what type of revenue they can expect but that doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy some of the ancillary economic benefits that states like Colorado have derived from sports betting albeit on a smaller scale. Most importantly, Wyoming could be the most ‘player friendly’ sports betting state in the US and as a result could get a surprising number of serious bettors looking to move there and companies looking to establish a presence–similar to what has happened with the cryptocurrency industry.
Speaking of which….Wyoming also has the distinction of being the first US state to make placing bets with crypto explicitly *legal*:
Wyoming has legalized online sports betting with a new law that also allows gamblers to place their wagers in crypto.
House bill 133, which the governor signed Monday, lets sportsbooks accept “digital, crypto and virtual currencies” bets in lieu of greenbacks – so long as those cryptos can be converted to cash.
The law’s crypto rider highlights how lawmakers in America’s least-populous state are embracing digital currency as an essential part of their legislative agenda. First came the bills to woo crypto business. Now, Wyoming legislators told CoinDesk, crypto inclusion is almost second nature.
The fact that the state’s sports betting ecosystem is ‘crypto friendly’ further evidences the need to provide some sort of ‘variance’ process for the ‘three jurisdiction’ licensing requirement. More specifically, I’m thinking of crypto focused sportsbooks like the Coingaming Group’s SportsBet.io. SportsBet.io is licensed all over the world–but nowhere in the US. Having a crypto focused sportsbook like SportsBet.io serving players in Wyoming would enhance the state’s credibility with the sports betting and cryptocurrency industries simultaneously.
I’ve downloaded the relevant sports betting legislation from the Wyoming Gaming Commission’s website and will be researching it. You can do the same at the link below:
UPDATE: I read through HB133 Enrolled Act 50 and didn’t find anything not previously covered. It’s all very straightforward but as you’d expect delegates most of the specifics to the Wyoming Gaming Commission.