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Wyoming Considering Poker, State Lottery

28 January 2011 by admin

Wyoming_Like_No_PlaceWyoming has never exactly been at the forefront of gambling expansion. In fact, they’re behind most states. Wyoming is one of only seven U.S. states that do not have a state lottery. The other 43, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, opted to run a lottery as a source of revenue, in many cases to help fund education.

All of that could change in the near future, as Wyoming is considering not only establishing a state lottery, but also allowing real-money casual poker games. Wyoming is one of those states where if you invite some of your friends over for poker and bet on the game, you might be actually breaking the law. Though there is little chance of actually being arrested for a casual home game, the infringement on freedom is a slap in the face of gamblers everywhere.

On Thursday, the state House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee cleared two separate gambling bills, paving the way for a full vote in the future. House Bill 186, which would create a state lottery, passed the committee by a 7-2 vote. If passed, the bill would establish an independent corporation to run the lottery, rather than the state government running the lottery itself. According to Mike Moser, director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association, having an independent corporation run the lottery has the advantage of not requiring state taxpayer money. In addition, he said that creating the lottery would not result in “growth in state government.”

That, in addition to the much-needed revenue, should bring the fiscal conservatives onboard, but there are still opponents to creating a state lottery. Some contend that Wyoming doesn’t have a large enough population (544,270, or slightly larger than the city of Atlanta, Georgia) to benefit from a lottery. A recent Legislative Service Study estimated the potential earnings as between $20 million and $40 million annually. The potential profits would be between $8 million and $10 million per year.

Some lawmakers oppose the lottery because they are worried it will lead to gambling problems. Representative Allen Jaggi said that creating a lottery would lead to gambling addiction. Governor Matt Mead isn’t sure that the financial benefits of the lottery would outweigh the negative societal impact.

It’s the same argument you normally hear against gambling. To be fair, though, the lottery is just as likely to hurt problem gamblers as slot machines are. In addition, the lottery has worse odds than slots, roulette, blackjack and every other casino game. That is why states that ban casinos but have a lottery are so hypocritical.

The poker bill, HB 188, is not quite as controversial. It attempts to clarify existing laws regarding poker. Wyoming currently has a law making professional gambling a felony. However, what makes gambling “professional” is so poorly defined (a common problem for lawmakers) that it is interpreted differently in different jurisdictions. Some counties consider casual gambling at home with friends perfectly legal, while others treat it as illegal if any money is exchanged.

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