Legal gambling in Wyoming used to be limited to charitable games, bingo, and pari-mutuel betting, but the situation began to change in the early noughties. In 2000, the Northern Arapaho tribe sued the state over its right to open a full-fledged casino in Riverton. The tribe maintained that under the Indian Gambling Regulatory Act of 1988, the state was required to allow it to offer Class 3 games, including slots because they were already permitted during charity events. The case went federal, and in 2004, the Tenth District Court of Appeals agreed that the tribe was “entitled to the full gamut of casino-style Class 3 gambling.” The state attempted to resist this ruling and requested a rehearing, but the court ruled in favor of the tribe again in 2005. This paved the way for the Eastern Shoshone tribe to negotiate its own compact with the local government, which resulted in the construction of an additional gambling establishment in Lander.
However, casino-style gambling in Wyoming isn’t limited to tribal venues – in 2003, the state allowed its local racetracks to install Instant Racing terminals, which are similar to slot machines in gameplay but generate the outcome based on historical horse racing data. In addition, local bars used to offer electronic skill games designed by Banilla Games, but in December 2018, the Wyoming Attorney General issued a formal opinion stating that the machines meet the definition of illegal gambling devices under Wyoming law.
The legality of real money games in Wyoming is determined based on the prevalence of the element of luck. According to Wyoming Statutes 6-7-101, gambling means “risking any property for gain contingent in whole or part upon lot, chance, or outcome of an event, including a sporting event, over which person taking a risk has no control.” If a game is based exclusively on skill, it doesn’t meet the definition of unlawful gambling. However, that determination is always made on a case-by-case basis. Engaging in unlawful gambling as a player is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to six months and a fine of up to $750. Wyoming regulations don’t include any provisions pertaining specifically to internet gambling, but the general prohibition on unregulated gambling undoubtedly applies to online play.
In 2016, Wyoming lawmakers reviewed the online gambling industry and considered the possibility of bringing legal internet gambling to the state. Unfortunately, no bills were introduced in the aftermath of this review, which indicates that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are willing to challenge the current status quo.
Most gambling-related matters are covered by Wyoming Statutes section 6-7-101 et seq. and 11-25-101 et seq. The minimum gambling age is 18.
(a) As used in this article:
(i) “Calcutta wagering” means wagering on the outcome of amateur contests, cutter horse racing, dog sled racing, professional rodeo events or professional golf tournament in which those who wager bid at auction for the exclusive right to “purchase” or wager upon a particular contestant or entrant in the event and when the outcome of the event has been decided the total wagers comprising the pool, less a percentage “take-out” by the event’s sponsor, is distributed to those who “purchased” or wagered upon the winning contestants or entrants;
(ii) “Gain” means the direct realization of winnings;
(iii) “Gambling” means risking any property for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, the operation of a gambling device or the happening or outcome of an event, including a sporting event, over which the person taking a risk has no control, but does not include:
(A) Bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength or endurance in which awards are made only to entrants or the owners of entries;
(B) Bona fide business transactions which are valid under the law of contracts;
(C) Other acts or transactions now or hereafter expressly authorized by law;
(D) Bingo games conducted, or pull tabs sold, by charitable or nonprofit organizations where the tickets for the bingo are sold only in this state and the pull tabs are sold only on the premises owned or occupied by the charitable or nonprofit organization provided that:
(I) Bingo games and pull tab games shall only be conducted by charitable or nonprofit organizations, which have been in existence in this state for at least three (3) years;
(II) In conducting bingo games and pull tab games the organization shall use only volunteers who are bona fide members of the charitable or nonprofit organization or employees or contractors who are paid by the organization to assist in the operation of the game;
(III) Players of bingo games or pull tab games shall be eighteen (18) years or older;
(IV) At least sixty-five percent (65%) of all gross sales shall be redeemed as winnings each month. The net proceeds after payment of winnings shall be restricted as follows:
(1) No more than forty percent (40%) of net proceeds shall be paid to distributors or manufacturers of supplies or equipment necessary to conduct the game; and
(2) Seventy-five percent (75%) of the net proceeds remaining after payment for all costs and supplies shall be donated within one (1) year by the organization to a bona fide charitable or benevolent purpose.
(V) The charitable or nonprofit organization conducting the bingo game or pull tab game may purchase supplies or equipment necessary to conduct the game from a distributor or manufacturer at a price based on a per card or pull tab basis subject to the limitations provided in subdivision (D)(IV)(1) of this paragraph.
(E) Any game, wager or transaction which is incidental to a bona fide social relationship, is participated in by natural persons only, and in which no person is participating, directly or indirectly, in professional gambling; or
(F) Calcutta wagering on contests or events conducted by a bona fide nationally chartered veterans’, religious, charitable, educational or fraternal organization or nonprofit local civic or service club organized or incorporated under the laws of this state, provided that:
(I) The contest or event is conducted solely in this state;
(II) Any rules affecting the contest or requirements for participants are clearly posted;
(III) The total prizes or prize money paid out in any one (1) contest or event does not exceed ninety percent (90%) of the total wagers;
(IV) A minimum of ten percent (10%) of the total wagers on each contest or event is donated within one (1) year by the sponsoring organization to a bona fide charitable or benevolent purpose;
(V) No separate organization or professional person is employed to conduct the contest or event or assist therein;
(VI) The sponsoring organization before conducting the contest or event gives thirty (30) days written notice of the time and place thereof to the governing body of the county or municipality in which it intends to conduct the contest or event and the governing body does not pass a resolution objecting thereto;
(VII) The sponsoring organization has complied with the relevant sections of the internal revenue code of 1954, as amended, relating to taxes on wagering.
(G) Display or private use of antique gambling devices in the owner’s residence;
(H) Raffles conducted for charitable purposes.
(iv) “Gambling device” means any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment except an antique gambling device that is used or usable in the playing phases of any professional gambling activity, whether that activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person involving the playing of a machine;
(v) “Gambling premise” means any building, room, enclosure, vehicle, vessel or other place, whether open or enclosed, used or intended to be used for professional gambling. Any place where a gambling device is found is presumed to be intended to be used for professional gambling;
(vi) “Gambling proceed” means all money or property at stake or displayed in or in connection with professional gambling;
(vii) “Gambling record” means any record, receipt, ticket, certificate, token, slip or notation given, made, used or intended to be used in connection with professional gambling;
(viii) “Professional gambling” means:
(A) Aiding or inducing another to engage in gambling, with the intent to derive a profit therefrom; or
(B) Participating in gambling and having, other than by virtue of skill or luck, a lesser chance of losing or a greater chance of winning than one (1) or more of the other participants.
(ix) “Profit” means benefit other than a gain, which is realized or unrealized and direct, including benefits from unequal advantage in a series of transactions but does not include benefits of proprietorship or management of a business wherein a game, wager or transaction described in W.S. 6 7 101(a)(iii)(E) occurs;
(x) “Antique gambling device” means a mechanically or electronically operated slot machine that is at least twenty-five (25) years old and used only for display or personal amusement in the owner’s residence, in public and private museums, in possession of a dealer or distributor of lawful gaming equipment or displayed at state or local historic sites;
(xi) “Charitable or nonprofit organization” means an organization recognized as a charitable or nonprofit organization under Wyoming statutes and which possesses a valid exemption from federal income tax issued by the Internal Revenue Service under the provisions of 26 U.S.C. ß 501(c);
(xii) Repealed By Laws 2007, Ch. 52, ß 1.
6-7-102. Gambling; professional gambling; penalties.
(a) A person who engages in gambling commits a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six (6) months, a fine of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750.00), or both.
(b) A person who engages in professional gambling commits a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than three (3) years, a fine of not more than three thousand dollars ($3,000.00), or both.
6-7-103. Gambling devices, gambling records, gambling proceeds subject to seizure; disposition thereof; antique gambling devices protected.
All gambling devices, gambling records and gambling proceeds are subject to seizure by any peace officer and shall be disposed of in accordance with law. An antique gambling device as defined by W.S. 6-7-101(a)(x) shall not be subject to seizure unless it is used in any way in violation of this article.
6-7-104. Advertising of allowable gambling activities or events.
Nothing in this chapter prohibits the advertising of any gambling activity or event excluded from gambling under W.S. 6-7-101(a)(iii) and conducted by or for any charitable or nonprofit organization or conducted as a promotional activity by a private business entity which is clearly occasional and ancillary to the primary business of that entity.