Place your bets: Wyoming’s sports gaming — in layman’s terms
CHEYENNE -- The bill is officially known as HB0133 in the state legislature.
You might recognize it by a different name -- the online sports gambling bill -- which is now a reality after a quick stroke of the pen Monday from Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon.
Like all bills that pass through the house and senate, it's filled with lingo that, like me, might make your eyes bleed. Let's break this down in layman's terms, huh?
* After Sept. 1, 2021, you can download a betting application to your phone ie DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel, etc., and place bets from inside Wyoming.
* You can bet on the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and major college sports, including the University of Wyoming.
* Only reputable companies -- like the ones listed above -- will have access to gaming licenses in the state. In other words, no fly by night, sketchy operations handling your cash.
* 10% of all bets placed in Wyoming will enter the state's general fund. That dough goes to the Department of Health and county health departments in every county around the state. That money will also go toward "treating problematic behavior" AKA Gambling help hotlines, etc.
* Any person hoping to place a bet has to be at least 18 years old.
A co-sponsor of this bill, Landon Brown (R-Cheyenne) sat down with me today to discuss the benefits of online sports gambling in a state that is facing a financial crisis due to reductions in the oil and coal industries.
Some early projections say online sports betting could generate north of $400 million annually. Brown isn't ready to go there yet, but said the benefits are obvious.
"This is literally the dumbest thing in the world," Brown said he was hearing from his constituents. "I can't open up my phone and place a bet here but I can go down to Ft. Collins and do it? Why are you allowing Colorado to take all my damn money?"
Brown estimates this new operation could bring in $250 million to the state early on.
This bill did not make it through the first reading, but Brown said a few side conversations and compromises brought gaming back to the forefront.
Brown said he knew the proposal would face pushback, especially from the western side of the state, but added that despite the negative aspects of gambling, this is creating a new source of revenue. More importantly, you don't have to gamble if you don't want to.
"We're not forcing people to go out and do this," he said. "Instead, we're saying, if you have the will and desire, you can do it legally. Now, we're just having this done illegally and it was putting people at risk. That's why Tom (Walters (R-Casper) and I ran this bill was for consumer protections."
Where the monies generated by the lotto go toward schools around the state, Brown said "think snowplows" when it comes to gambling revenue.
"Jobs are frozen and there have been no raises for state employees," he said. "The general fund also distributes out money to local counties and local governments."
I asked Brown to make this as simple as possible:
* Gambling was already happening.
* The legislature wants to keep money in the state.
* Let's be safe and responsible about it.
Brown dropped another interesting tidbit over a couple of cheeseburgers today -- He thinks this is just the beginning.
"I think within the next 10 years, there's legalized gambling in the state," he said.
Like casinos popping up?
"I think you could absolutely see it," he continued. "Well, I think you may see it in jurisdictional areas kind of like what Colorado does where it's illegal in the state unless your county votes upon it. So then you get the Blackhawks and Central Cities. You may see something like that happen."
In 'Waymon's terms'
Waymon Levingston, former UW defensive back from 1993-96, was very eager to chat about Wyoming's newest piece of legislation.
Levingston said Tuesday that he has been placing bets online for the better part of 20 years. He's won about 60% of the time, he said. He's hesitant to call himself a professional gambler, but added he does his research.
Levingston spends time bouncing around between Wyoming and Texas. When he's here, he said betting has to be done either inside the Colorado state line or go through "channels," which is slang for offshore betting.
"Wyoming has always been a black hole," he said. "I mean, there are ways around it though."
What does that mean?
The sportsbook or casino is not based inside the country. That makes it more difficult and time consuming to collect winnings, Levingston said.
Levingston, who currently works for Nebraska Furniture Mart and prior to that was an advisor for the UW Athletic department, said he gambles daily. There are good and bad days, but he added that if he didn't have some disposable income he wouldn't be into it as much as he is.
"I don't bet blind," he laughed.
Levingston said he does his homework before placing a wager. One season he watched an entire year of WNBA basketball without placing a single bet. He wanted to learn the league and its players before he put money on it. The Giants and Padres game cost him some dough last night, he added with a sigh. He even used the "D-word" when describing those days -- degenerate.
Levingston said he is very aware of the dangers of gambling. Blowing rent money or college tuition is never a good idea, he added. It's even cost him. That's why he takes it so seriously.
"It's probably cost me a relationship or two," he said. "My laptop sat on my lap more than she did. I don't do it willy nilly. Anytime you're not losing money is good."
Levingston compared what he does to being a day trader on Wall Street. Numbers are constantly changing and he goes with the flow -- if it makes sense.
Does the former Cowboy ever bet on his old team?
Yes, but there are parameters.
"My suggestion is to not bet on stuff you're emotionally involved in," he said. "For the most part, I'm not betting on the Wyoming-Colorado State game. I'm way too emotionally involved in that. You can sometimes win the bet, lose the game and still want to punch a hole through the wall."
Levingston is currently in Texas, but said he is looking forward to getting back and placing his first bet.
"I was excited when it passed," he said. "I'm interested to see what's available to me and see what I can get going."
Will this hurt Colorado?
First off, do we really care about this subject?
It's worth looking into though.
Ian St. Clair, site runner and lead writer at playcolorado.com, has heard the stories before about Wyoming residents crossing the border to make their bets before making a U-turn.
What does this new bill mean?
"The fact Wyoming bettors will now be able to do that from their favorite chair will increase the enthusiasm," he said. "... The Colorado and Wyoming markets are separate so I don't think one will impact the other. Both markets will thrive because the demand for sports betting is there. And what we see right away is only the start."
In 2020, the state of Colorado reported more than $1.1 billion in sports wagers. That generated money, which is reportedly around $3.5 million, goes into the state water fund after startup and administration costs were covered.
Online sports betting has been legal in Colorado since November of 2019.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, which axed or altered nearly all major sports in 2020, the state to the south was still spending cash on bets. Millions, believe it or not, went toward European table tennis and South Korean baseball.
St. Clair said he has a good feeling Wyoming residents will not only bet on their beloved Cowboys, but probably put a few dollars behind the state's newly adopted NFL team, the Buffalo Bills, which have three former UW players on the roster: Josh Allen, Tanner Gentry and Jacob Hollister.
He has a couple of tips for would-be bettors, too.
"Yes, it's easy to register for an account, but have a limit in place," he said. "If you think you're going to be able to pay your mortgage through sports betting, you're doing it for the wrong reasons.
... "Also, prepare for the sportsbook commercials. Wyoming is about to get inundated with them."