The Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission (PMC) has shut down all historic horse race terminals in the state after Attorney General Peter K. Michael issued an opinion last week that said the games are parimutuel, but the bonus rounds on the slot-like machines are not as those outcomes were determined, “by events that are non-parimutuel in nature and based upon total chance.”
The ban went into effect Sunday and today the PMC declined to lift the ban so machines at bars and off-track betting sites will remain dark for now.
Wyoming Downs was a significant participant in bringing the machines into play when they were legalized by the Wyoming Legislature in 2013 and the proceeds allowed the company to hire a significant workforce as well as fatten purses at its live race track. The move to shut down the Historic Horse Race industry could stop the flow of millions of tax dollars and threaten live racing in the state that saw a major resurgence after the machines were authorized.
Neighboring Idaho lost the games with a state Supreme Court decision last month that said the governor failed to act in time to veto legislation outlawing them. The state’s only commercial race track has said it will likely have to cease live meets without the additional income from the machines.
Texas horsemen also lost the opportunity to offer the games in August when lawmakers cut funding to the Texas Racing Commission because commissioners voted to keep rules in place allowing them. There are lawsuits and other actions against the machines in nearly every state they are made available with opponents calling them ‘cleverly disguised slots’. They may also be the only potential saving grace of horse tracks outside of the major stakes races, as the horse racing has fallen from favor with a proliferation of tribal and lottery casinos available in increasing numbers.
Wyoming Downs had asked the PMC to keep the games live while adjustments could be made that would bring them into compliance and expressed dismay that the same commission who determined they were legal had now decided they were not.
The Executive Director of the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission told ESPN in August last year, “When the legislation was first passed to allow Historical Horse Racing, there were three main goals – to bolster purses, generate funds for Wyoming Breeding and create a new revenue stream for the Municipalities,” said Charles Moore, “We are very pleased that we are reaching and exceeding all three of those goals.”