Wyoming reportedly has around 400 unregulated gaming machines, the majority of which can be found in places like truck stops, convenience stores, bars and similar locations. It may not seem like that many, but some estimate that the 400 machines produce around $4 million in receipts each year. If the government had a tax on them at just 15%, it would be able to collect about $600,000 a year for its operating revenue. But, Wyoming doesn’t have a tax on them because the machines are unregulated. And it doesn’t look like this is going to change anytime soon, leaving the state out of a potential revenue source.
A bill had been submitted to the state’s legislature to try to lasso in the machines and put them under government control. However, the Wyoming Joint Committee on Travel, Recreation and Cultural Resources decided last Friday to withdraw its support of legislation that could have finally corralled the gaming devices.
That legislation was designed to establish a gaming commission in the state in order to improve oversight of all gambling. Just like previous attempts at introducing a gaming commission, this one is set to fail.
Now that the opportunity to create a gaming commission has been overruled for at least another year, many believe that there will be an increase in the illegal machines. Senator Ogden Driskill told the Casper Star-Tribune, My prediction is we’re going to come back next year with nothing passed, and we’re going to be dealing with something between 800 and 1,200 machines with the number of new bartenders. It’s getting harder and harder to slow that down.”
Wyoming is one of the smallest states in the U.S. and has around 572,000 residents. Losing any source of revenue directly impacts each resident and, in the case of the illegal gaming machines, it means approximately $7 annually for each one. The state also doesn’t collect income taxes and it doesn’t charge a sales tax on alcohol, so it should be willing to look for additional revenue streams anywhere it can. The regulated Wyoming Lottery and horseracing industries help, but there’s more that could be done.