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Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission approves new historic horse racing games that meet state law


CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Fans of historic horse racing in Wyoming could see the games start to come back in operation later this month after the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission on Friday approved two new games to replace ones that were shut down because they were too similar to slot machines.

The decision was among several the commission made during its meeting in Casper to help the state's hundred-million-dollar pari-mutuel horse racing industry, which has been losing money every day that the historic horse racing terminals are down.

"It's a good day for us, it's a good day for horsemen, and it's a good day for our industry," Eugene Joyce, president of Wyoming Horse Racing LLC, said in a telephone interview after the meeting.

The machines, also known as instant horse racing, allow bettors to place wagers on horse races that have already been run, but without any information about which races they're betting on. Terminals are located in bars and off-track betting sites throughout the state.

The games that had been on the machines over the last couple of years had additional functions that were similar to slot machines. The commission suspended use of the machines in early October after a Wyoming attorney general's opinion concluded the games did not conform with state law that prohibits slot machine-type gambling in most of the state.

Operators of the terminals say the new games approved Friday will comply with state law, and some terminals could be back in operation as soon as Nov. 20.

The historic horse racing games were popular, drawing $113.6 million in wagers in the state in 2014. By comparison, $1.15 million was wagered on live horse racing and $6.2 million on simulcast racing during the same year.

The two operators that conduct pari-mutuel racing in the state said the revenue from historic horse racing subsidized both live and simulcast horse racing in Wyoming.

Joyce said that without the historic horse racing, he couldn't afford to conduct live horse racing events next year.

The commission on Friday did all it could to help the operators out.

Besides approving the two new games, the commission also cut fees it charges operators for next year, approved a new historic horse racing terminal and allowed additional ways for people to place wagers.

Commission President Randy Leinen said at the outset of the meeting that its actions were aimed at bringing the industry in compliance with state gambling laws.

"If we have to change rules, or clarify rules or clarify things the way they need to appear or the way they need to be done then we will do that," Leinen said.

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