Josh Allison (right) and Randy Greer present to the Park County commissioners July 14.

Park County voters will be asked if they want to approve a form of legalized gambling in their community on this year’s general election ballot.

Pari-mutuel gambling will be put up for consideration, approved by the Park County commissioners at their meeting last Tuesday for the November ballot.

“I firmly support putting this in front of the voters,” said commissioner Jake Fulkerson.

Pari-mutuel most typically involves gambling on a variety of racing sports, but it is only associated with horse racing in Wyoming. On a local level, pari-mutuel would come in the form of terminals that resemble slot machines, and live betting on simulcast horse races.

Pari-mutuel wagering involves bets being placed together in a pool, with the total funds disbursed among the winning bettors who played against each other but not the house. The house pulls a share of the revenue known as takeout before the winnings are dispersed, removing it from the competition.

In its most basic form, pari-mutuel would take place through off-track betting in electronic video game machines placed in bars and restaurants, offering historical horse races for people to bet on.

These machines differ from skill-based amusement games, which although legal, some Wyoming lawmakers criticize as essentially slot machines. Traditional slot machines are not legal in Wyoming.

There is no pari-mutuel wagering allowed anywhere in northwest Wyoming outside Teton County at this time. In 2019, sports betting was legalized in Colorado.

“With the world of gambling how it is nowadays, anybody in Park County can get on their phone and just gamble,” 307 Horse Racing general manager Randy Greer said.

Patrick Montgomery, a pastor at First Presbyterian Church, doesn’t see it that way.

“Just because you make something available doesn’t make it the right thing,” he said.

Last year, $800 million in total wagers were placed in Wyoming. Of that total $793.4 million was spent using historical horse racing terminals.

Greer said counties and municipalities receive a varying portion of funding from in-person and simulcast racing, dispersed by the state. In 2019, the state received $56,721 of the $3.7 million raised from simulcast wagering and $25,251 from in-person racing bets.

A total of 17 Wyoming counties and cities received funding from historical horse racing terminals in 2019 and 14 total counties where it is legal. Sheridan is the closest location to Park County where it is both legal and active. Sheridan County and the City of Sheridan each received $341,178 from HHRT in 2019.

“We feel like those are very, very conservative numbers for Park County,” said Josh Allison, a Cody businessman who recently helped start 307 Horse Racing.

Allison and Greer came before the commissioners to push for the measure to be put on the ballot.

The 307 Horse Racing business recently applied for a gaming license with the State of Wyoming and if approved, would become the state’s third operator. Allison said a licensed operator must host 16 live races over the course of the year, but he said his business is aiming for triple that number. There is live horse racing currently in Gillette, Evanston and Rock Springs. No live horse racing exists in Montana, South Dakota or Idaho.

Greer said these states didn’t succeed with horse racing because they didn’t establish off-track betting.

“That’s how we survive,” he said.

The 307 organization will be using the Cam-Plex in Gillette for live horse racing and Greer said he will be speaking with representatives in Casper and Cheyenne soon about leasing their facilities as well.

He said horse track representatives have told him, ‘Everything else is going down and you guys are going up.’”

Although there were 17 off-track betting locations, only three different tracks held live races.

“They’re (horse breeders) all looking for a place to come and they’re bringing better livestock to the state,” Greer said.

Allison said businesses could expect an increase of patrons from the presence of the historical horse race terminals but stressed this form of gambling is much different than what one could envision at a casino in Las Vegas or Montana.

“We think it will be a win-win for everybody,” he said.

If the ballot measure passes, 307 Horse Racing would still have to receive permission from the commissioners in order to run a HHRT machine in any business.

Betting on live simulcasts and streams for horse races like the Kentucky Derby as well as contests at local tracks could also occur in the future, but the HHRT’s would come first, Greer said.

New business

The 307 organization came to the county at a possibly opportune time, considering the recent downturn in the economy, causing slashed budgets statewide.

“They’re creating a potential revenue stream for the cities and the counties at a time when the state and everybody else is chasing nickels,” said Fulkerson. “It will drive everybody into the bars and restaurants that could really use it.”

Public winnings amounted to 92.3% of total HHRT disbursements in 2019, while the counties and municipalities received 1% or $7.9 million, with the rest of the revenues going to the horse breeders and tracks, and the WGC. The state takes a .5% share of the revenue ($3.9 million in 2019) and the breeders are awarded 40%, or $3.2 million 2019.

“We need to look at every revenue source possible and we would be remiss to not put this on the ballot,” said commission chair Joe Tilden, adding, “I think this is going to be a hard sell.”

A 1994 statewide ballot measure to legalize all limited-stakes casino gambling failed with 68% of the public voting against it with the Cody chamber of commerce also voicing its opposition at them. This time around the chamber has no comment yet regarding pari-mutuel.

There can be negative social impacts stemming from legalizing instant-gratification gaming.

“In a general sense anything that is gambling, such as an entertainment game or lotteries, can have a negative social impact,” Montgomery said. “If you go to the reservation and watch how people make decisions standing in line at the gas station – whether to buy milk for their children or get lottery tickets.”

A 2004 study performed by the Research Institute on Addictions at the University of Buffalo found that 6-12% of adults living within 10 miles of a gaming establishment could be considered problem-gamblers.

New money

In 2013, Wyoming lawmakers passed two bills – one establishing the state lottery, and the other allowing residents to participate in national lotteries like PowerBall. Simulcast betting and historical horse racing terminals were also legalized as part of the legislation.

Allison mentioned the Wyoming Game and Fish hunting license raffle as another form of legal gambling occurring in the local community. This revenue brought in around $1.5 million for the state last year, but none of it was directly dispersed to Park County.

“It’s already here, they’re already doing it in Park County,” he said.

Although he said it’s a long shot for now, Allison said he would love to bring live horse racing to Cody someday. Allison is breeding in-state quarter horses for racing with the hope they will be a factor in the national and world racing scene someday.

“It would be unbelievable to have some races here I think but there’s a lot of stuff you’d have to go through with a track,” Allison said. “You couldn’t just use the rodeo grounds. You’d have to modify it and things like that.”

Tumultuous gambling past

Gambling has had a storied history in Park County and Wyoming. 

The first laws against gambling came about in 1909, and shortly after four slot machines and two roulette wheels were confiscated in Cody, according to a Big Horn County Rustler story. 

But it appears enforcement fluctuated back and forth over time.

Certain local ranches and some establishments ran slot machines, and other gambling activities continued long after the activity became illegal.

This activity was so prevalent that in 1947, Webb Trout, bureau manager of United Press in Wyoming, wrote an editorial accusing many law enforcement officers of closing their eyes to the activity, describing the issue as a “red-hot political potato” that had been “dropped squarely into the lap of Gov. Lester C. Hunt.”

Pari-mutuel gambling has been legal in Wyoming since 1967. It is now overseen by the Wyoming Game Commission, which was formed by law in March after Gov. Mark Gordon reconstituted the Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission, giving the new organization oversight of all gambling in Wyoming. The WGC also oversees bingo, pull tabs, calcutta, and skill based amusement games. Gambling in regards to charity is not regulated.

(12) comments

barbed wire bliss

Hello Kanye. Hello gambling. Good-bye to the Cody I used to know.

Fox Blue River

I personally find the idea of horse racing exciting and romantic, as well as pretty much anything western.

However, I'm not allowed to use profanity but let me say gosh dang those slot machines occupying every square foot of every Montana gas station are sleazy, same with the cheesy casinos that pop up everywhere.

Maybe a horse track would be cool but gambling machines are just going to make the poor poorer.

Holly Hatfield

Do you want our county to look like Montana with its proliferation of gambling establishments at every restaurant and gas station around, along with all of the tacky signage? How many tourists will enjoy this new ambiance? Do you want our county to make money off of the backs of gambling addicts, including local residents? Is receiving a 1% pittance worth enriching the pockets of private individuals at the expense of these concerns and others?

Tourists come here for Yellowstone, not to gamble on slot machines. Did you notice the only proponents of the view that these machines are not slot machines are from individuals like Mr. Allison and the companies that profit from them?

While our county may be facing budget problems, allowing parimutuel betting is not going to solve them. As the article reports, Sheridan County only received just over $341,000 last year. Even if it would be more profitable here in Park County, it's not going to even come close to solving the projected $1,900,000 shortfall reported earlier this year.

I will be voting "no" and I hope you will vote "no" as well.

P.S. Leo, does the Cody Enterprise always delete articles (and their comments) after they've been updated? I noticed the previous week's article on this topic has disappeared from the website and Facebook, where I and others previously commented. If the Cody Enterprise wants to avoid the appearance of censorship, it might want to reconsider how it handles "updates."

Gunrunner Auctions

These types of gambling machines have bumped up city, county and state coffers and stopped the need for further taxes. That's how they sold the Wyoming Lottery as well. There's nothing "sleazy" about having a machine in a restaurant or bar - these are natural places for them. I'd like to bet on horses! That's the Wyoming way! Race tracks and gambling on horses is as American as Mom, apple pie and firearms! Sounds to me like the Park County Commissioners are loving the idea. Anything to keep them from promoting a 20% on sales tax. That hurts merchants. I vote YES on horse races in Wyoming!


The correct word is "disburse," not disperse.

And I think the county should dispel this idea.

There's more to life than money, and if you're going to waste it, there are better ways.

Jim Jones

Maybe we should start an English 101 GoFundMe for the reporters and editors of the Enterprise.


Well, Jim, sorry to put you on the spelling spot too, but they got "pari mutuel" right. It's not para mutual.

Jim Jones

This article mentions how much money state and local governments have received in the past from this type of gambling. If the commissioners asked how much Park County would receive from para mutual wagering, the reporter didn't bother to write it. Also, if the voters approve this, are we granting the operator a license to print money? Is a yes vote essentially a vote for a no-bid contract? What are the rules here? IF the voters approve gambling, shouldn't Park County issue an invitation to bid and pick the best operator with the best financial record and cleanest criminal background who offers the county the best financial deal? Is the reporter the least bit curious on how this stuff works? Anyone who reads this article will assume that these guys will get a license to print money without any competitive bids. If this is not the case, the reporter has done a disservice to the gambling operator and the electorate. If approving para mutual gambling mean the next step is competitive bids from multiple operators, the County Supervisors need to have a serious talk with the Cody Enterprise because this article makes them look very bad.


Voting NO!!!



KD Lamb

So this 307 Horse racing cabal and the Park Co. commish wants to turn all are restaurants and bars into seedy, Billings-like gambling joints? Let's put it to a vote vote is NO

Jim Jones

I'm with you! Don't turn Wyoming into Montana. Every corner store is a seedy gambling joint!

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