SHERIDAN – A potential new WyoLotto game could create a new source of funding for outdoor recreational development in Wyoming, but critics remain concerned about the new game’s impact on local governments.
During its October 25th session, the Wyoming Legislature’s Committee on Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources voted 7-6 to continue discussions on a bill creating scratch cards in Wyoming.
The Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources will spend the proceeds from the scratch cards “to promote, improve, and manage access to Wyoming’s recreational areas, resources, and outdoor facilities, and to further enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in the state.” , so the bill.
Currently, the revenue from WyoLotto’s games is distributed to local governments, according to WyoLotto CEO Jon Clontz. This totaled $ 2.98 million distributed across the state in fiscal years 2019 and 2020, with $ 140,670 going to Sheridan County and its county, city and town councils. Sheridan County is expected to receive an additional $ 45,145 in WyoLotto revenue during the current fiscal year, Clontz said.
While scratch cards could be a valuable source of funding for outdoor recreational projects across the state, Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody feared that the addition of scratch cards would “cannibalize” traditional lottery ticket sales, increasing the amount of money raised by lottery sales to cities and towns Counties is going to decrease.
Jerimiah Rieman, executive director of the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, said his association had not held an official vote on the scratch card issue, but it was “very likely that we would oppose it.”
Rieman said he was particularly concerned about the “standup cost” of setting up the new game, which Clontz estimated at $ 600,000 to $ 700,000. Those dollars must come from somewhere, said Rieman, and he feared they would come from revenue that would otherwise go to the counties.
“It costs something to produce these new games, and we need a mechanism to protect local governments if we want to channel the money elsewhere,” said Rieman.
When asked by Rep. Pat Sweeney, R-Casper, Rieman replied that district commissioners would not worry about the bill if the dollars were distributed to local governments. While the bill is being written, the counties could potentially see a loss of valuable revenue, he said.
Senator Bill Landen, R-Casper, argued that while local governments would not see any direct revenue from the scratch cards, they would certainly be the beneficiaries of the projects funded by the tickets.
“Anything we’ve talked about in the meantime about state parks and cultural resources and the potential development of hiking trails will benefit our local governments,” Landen said. “I think this can get lost in the discussion at times, but when we invest in our outdoor recreational needs, our local governments will be the direct recipient. I just don’t want us to forget that. “
Local governments aren’t the only ones who could be negatively affected by adding scratch cards. Mark Larson, executive vice president of the Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, expressed concerns about the proposal, arguing that it could harm small convenience stores.
“Scratch cards take up valuable counter space, take a long time to inventory and track scratch cards, and are a magnet for employee theft,” Larson wrote in a letter to the committee. “The ‘buy, scratch, cash, buy’ cycle clogs the registers, is unhealthy in a COVID environment … and has a negative impact on productivity.”
Clontz said any retailer can opt out of selling the tickets if they so choose. However, he also said the addition of scratch cards could be a welcome addition to the WyoLotto portfolio and would likely generate lots of revenue for outdoor recreational projects. In a survey conducted by WyoLotto, 74% of Wyoming citizens said they would like to add scratch cards to the state’s gambling portfolio, Clontz said.
“Scratch games are hugely popular and we get asked for them all the time,” said Clontz. “… The reason we love the idea of creating Scratch is because we want to make people more entertaining. This is number 1 what they ask us for and what they go to other states for. # 2, we think it’s a good source of income to add to the lottery. “
MPs on the committee were divided over the proposal, with some – like MP Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan – arguing that the idea looks promising but needs further development.
“It just feels like this isn’t fully checked or fully operational,” Jennings said. “… Throwing something in at the last minute might harm something we don’t intend.”
Others, like Landen, encouraged lawmakers to continue the discussion in the coming weeks.
“In the meantime, I was forced to … try to come up with something that would encourage discussion about our outdoor activities,” said Landen. “In the absence of this instrument, I am not sure that we will move anything forward. So I can really praise the department for at least suggesting this. “
If the bill is passed by the legislature this spring, the bill would offer scratch cards from January 1, 2023.