SHERIDAN — Legislation addressing video skill games in Wyoming was killed in the most recent session, but local law enforcement anticipates the bills showing up in next year’s session.
Two bills were introduced in the 2019 General Session in Cheyenne: House Bill 206 and House Bill 284. HB 284 established regulation of video skill games by the lottery corporation, while HB 206 would have had the state’s liquor division regulate the gambling machines.
Sheridan County Sheriff Allen Thompson and Sheridan Police Department Chief Rich Adriaens both expressed concerns with the legislation, noting that if gambling were legalized in part or in whole throughout the state, it should be done through a gambling commission, similar to neighboring states of South Dakota and Montana.
“The problem with that is some of that initial legislation — and that’s one of the few bills I reached out to our local legislators on during the session — is that they were wanting to work a gambling bill basically under the alcohol compliance division in the state of Wyoming,” Thompson said.
HB 206 focuses on skill games being located at truck stops or other areas of business, and distributes 4 percent of net proceeds from the games to counties, cities and towns on a monthly basis. The legislation said the distributions of the balance will be given to a county based on the population outside of city limits and each town based on population.
Thompson ran numbers specifically for Sheridan County, and he estimated the city receiving 59 percent of the revenue stream based on population, with outlying towns of Dayton, Ranchester and Clearmont receiving the other 41 percent.
“We provide sole law enforcement services to those communities without any contract or cost, so they would reap the benefits of that tax revenue stream, yet we would be the ones that would be working those cases in any violations in those towns,” Thompson said.
HB 206 died in committee after being introduced and referred to appropriations. HB 284 died in committee of the whole with votes of 17 to 42. Local legislators Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, Rep. Mark Kinner, R-Sheridan, Rep. Richard Tass, R-Buffalo and Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, all voted down the bill.
“It’s not passing as something that people want to see, and in fact, if we’re going to have gambling, we should have gambling and do it right,” Adriaens said. “They weren’t going to have a gambling commission. They were going to have the liquor division do it or the lotto division do it. You need to regulate that.”
“I think it was kind of flawed in that if we are going to have gambling in Wyoming, we should have a gambling division at the state level to oversee this. Any other state that has gambling, even limited like maybe South Dakota and Montana, they have a gambling commission that oversees this, and I think that’s the way that if Wyoming wants to take that route that would be the best way for local law enforcement.”
Legislation regarding skill game machines will likely resurface in next year’s legislative session.