SWEETWATER COUNTY — Wyoming Downs, LLC will be conducting pari-mutuel wagering on live horse racing, historic racing, and simulcast events at the Town Bar & Grill in Green River after receiving unanimous approval from the Sweetwater County Commissioners Tuesday.
Andrew Hubert, Town Bar & Grill owner, said that the establishment previously had horse racing terminals from Wyoming Horse Racing, LLC, but they recently moved out of the Town Bar & Grill to set up their own establishment on Uinta Way.
Hubert said Wyoming Downs will be placing 27 terminals into the Town Bar & Grill, and that he will have to hire three to four more people to properly staff the restaurant and bar. He also said the machines will all be properly socially distanced to be COVID-19 Coronavirus compliant.
Chairman Randy “Doc” Wendling said he is concerned about the machines as the Vegas-style gambling machines are “destination machines” and may cause increased traffic with lack of parking in the downtown Green River area. He also said that the machines may take business away from other downtown bars and establishments.
Hubert said that when the Wyoming Horse Racing machines were operating in his establishment, there was increased business for all of the downtown bars.
“The business on the whole street seemed to increase,” Hubert said. “It seems a bit slower now without the machines.”
Jill Jarrard, Wyoming Downs Public Relations Specialist, said that the machines bring in revenue for the cities, county, and state. She also added that since the Sweetwater County Commissioners granted Wyoming Downs “blanket” approval to expand to more locations in Sweetwater County, Wyoming Downs will be approaching the other local bars as well. The Commissioners unanimously granted that approval on December 18.
Chairman Wendling also expressed concerns about the localness of Wyoming Downs. He said that though the business may be located in Wyoming and licensed in Wyoming, sometimes the owners are out of state and therefore all the money is not staying in Wyoming.
“I just have some second thoughts,” Wendling said.
Jarrard said the business is Wyoming-owned and the LLC is licensed in Wyoming but that she would look into whether all the money stays local or not.
Commissioner Jeff Smith said he would vote to approve the request as they have previously approved requests such as these. The Commissioners and Green River City Council both approved Wyoming Downs to conduct business at the Town Bar & Grill in May 2018, before Wyoming Horse Racing began conducting pari-mutuel wagering in the establishment.
“I would have a difficult time saying no to this when we previously said yes,” Smith said.
Sweetwater County Deputy Attorney John DeLeon said the Commissioners could approve with an amendment, in which they could add a deadline to the approval. The Board did this when approving Wyoming Downs to expand into more locations throughout the County.
Both approvals were made with the amendment that there be a time frame set on the agreements, established for June 30, 2021, in which the Commissioners can then reassess the request.
This time frame was selected to go in accordance with HB171, which was previously passed by the Wyoming State Legislature in which they authorized continued use of skills games in Wyoming through June 30, 2021. The Legislature will then revisit the issue of skills games in Wyoming establishments.