The Wyoming legislature is considering a bill in the Senate to create a new Gaming Commission (SF0132) that would regulate gambling statewide (bingo, pull-tabs, calcutta events, and video slot machines) as well as a companion House bill (HB0206) specifically focused on regulating the expansion of video slot machines to truck stops, liquor and convenience stores, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs around the state.
We believe the current gaming environment is appropriate for Wyoming and is regulated at an appropriate level of governmental involvement to ensure the safety and rights of the citizens of our great state. We are opposed to new legislation that will introduce additional regulation, restrict gambling further, or expand it. Very simply, we support the status quo and encourage legislators to vote NO on bills that will change the current gaming environment.
Together, the proposed bills would be an unnecessary new layer of governmental bureaucracy, with additional costs, unintended consequences, and the potential for a slippery slope to further government growth. In addition, we fear that the expansion of video slot machines to truck stops as well as every establishment with a liquor license will increase crime in Wyoming, as it did in Illinois where violent crime spiked 15% after their introduction.
The new regulatory authorities will be expensive, too. The Gaming Commission is projected to require at least a dozen new full time government employees at a cost of over $500,000 per year, with an additional startup cost of nearly half a million dollars. Further, if the experience in Illinois is any guide, the taxpayer can expect to pay $3 to address the costs of crime, bankruptcy, and addiction for every $1 in new revenue collected by the state.
The new Gaming Commission would be in addition to the existing Pari-Mutuel Commission, and would have broad rule-making and enforcement authority, including new license procedures, license fees, recordkeeping requirements, and the power to investigate and inspect in order to enforce these new rules. The bill gives the Commission total discretion to issue or deny licenses with or without reason. Bingo and pull-tabs will only be available to licensed charitable organizations operating in Wyoming for more than 3 years. Towns and counties will have authority to prohibit certain gaming activities but not others, creating a crazy quilt of gaming laws as you drive through the state.
There are also many unintended consequences of the current bill, such as putting onerous new recordkeeping requirements and license fee payments on groups like the Knights of Columbus or VFW, imposing a tax on bingo games, and criminalizing unlicensed poker games or calcutta wagering events.
We oppose this unnecessary expansion of governmental authority and invitation to violent criminals, all to chase the fools gold of revenue to the state. We encourage legislators to vote NO on any bills that change the current gaming environment in Wyoming.