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SHERIDAN — The Board of County Commissioners agreed to consider the idea of installing off-track betting terminals at an establishment in Sheridan at its regular meeting Tuesday.
Consideration of an official resolution allowing off-track betting in Sheridan is pending a more complete proposal from Wyoming Horse Racing, LLC, commission Chairman Steve Maier said.
Eugene Joyce, managing partner of Wyoming Horse Racing, LLC, appeared before the commission to request consideration of a resolution that will allow pari-mutuel wagering on live simulcast race events, historic races and live rodeo events. His company currently operates off-track betting in Evanston, Rock Springs, Casper and Cheyenne, in addition to live horse racing at Sweetwater Downs in Rock Springs.
Pari-mutuel wagering allows people to bet on professional roping events and horse, dog, harness, cutter, chariot and chuck wagon racing events.
The betting pool is split between the winning bets after taxes and fees for management are taken out.
At this point, Wyoming Horse Racing has been working with the Eagles Club in Sheridan on plans to renovate a portion of its building to accommodate off-track betting terminals. The terminals would allow people to place bets on live races around the country and on historic races in which the time, date, location and actual names of the race horses are masked. Off-track betting would operate 52 weeks per year, Joyce said.
“We feel that it’s an activity that will spread money around not only to the Wyoming horsemen, but also to the local communities to help them meet their budget needs and also to invigorate our industry on the breeding and racing side,” Joyce said.
There is a tax on every wager, Joyce said. Ninety-two percent of the money wagered goes back to the betting public, and 1.5 percent of the remaining 8 percent is split between the city, county and state.
Off-track betting funds are also used to support live horse races at Sweetwater Downs in Rock Springs, the only live racing site in Wyoming, and Wyoming All Breeds Racing Association, which is the only recognized horsemen’s group in the state, Joyce said. He added that bolstering off-track betting and live racing will support and grow the horse industry in Wyoming, creating business for breeders, veterinarians, farriers, jockeys and hay and feed suppliers.
The Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission was established in 1967, and pari-mutuel wagering is currently allowed in 13 out of 23 Wyoming counties. Sheridan County approved off-track betting in 1989-1990 and wagering on roping events in 2009, according to the 2009 annual report of the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission.
The Wyoming Legislature approved betting on historic races during the 2013 legislative session as a way to bolster an industry that has declined substantially in the last few years, Joyce said.
“Traditional simulcasting over the last several years has taken a tremendous hit in that normally people would come into the off-track betting site to wager on these races, but with the explosion of Internet wagering, people can stay home and wager,” Joyce said. “That has eroded the traditional simulcast business by roughly 35 to 40 percent. In that type of scenario, live horse racing was not going to survive.”
Joyce said it would be several months until the off-track betting terminals could be up and running, if approved.