Category archive

Business

Financial Relief Will Be Available Soon For Wyo Small Businesses

in Business/Coronavirus/News
4761

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Some financial relief will soon be available to small business owners in Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council CEO said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Josh Dorrell spoke during the conference alongside Gov. Mark Gordon and broke down the three grant programs created to distribute federal coronavirus emergency funds.

During the special legislative session in mid-May, the Wyoming Legislature created these programs to distribute $325 million in federal funding for Wyoming small business owners who experienced hardship related to the pandemic.

The first program in operation is the Wyoming Business Interruption Stipend, a program providing grants up to $50,000 for Wyoming for-profit applicants that employ 50 or fewer people and established their business before any public health orders were issued in the state.

This particular program has $50 million in its budget. Businesses will be able to apply on-line for the grants beginning Monday.

“In developing this program, we’re working hard to ensure security and simplicity so applicants can access those funds and continue to focus on what’s important: running their business,” Dorrell said during the conference.

He added applicants will not be required to submit supporting documents to apply for the grants, but they will want to keep information showing their businesses were hurt by the coronavirus for future audits.

The second program has a budget of $225 million and will provide up to $300,000 to businesses with 100 or fewer employees. It’s expected to launch in early July.

The third program has a budget of $50 million and will provide up to $500,000 in grants to Wyoming businesses. This particular stipend won’t have an employee requirement. It’s also expected to launch in early July.

Dorrell reminded viewers that the payments provided under the relief programs are grants and wouldn’t need to paid back.

Businesses are eligible to apply for all three grants if they meet the requirements.

“We definitely want to make sure this money stays in Wyoming and helps those businesses that need it most,” Dorrell said.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Cheyenne Refinery To Shift To Renewable Diesel, Cut 200 Workers

in Business/Economy/Energy/Jobs/News
4710

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

HollyFrontier’s Cheyenne Refinery will shift from refining petroleum to producing a diesel fuel made out of soybean oil, the company announced Monday.

HollyFrontier announced in a news release that the conversion from petroleum refining will take 12 to 18 months and by the time the work is completed, about 200 workers will have been released.

The reduction in the refinery’s workforce will occur over a period of time, said Liberty Swift, manager of corporate communications for the company.

“Everyone’s learning today what the plan is so no one would be taken by surprise,” she said. “We’re working with everybody to try to assist them through this process.”

The refinery on the south side of Cheyenne has been processing petroleum for 86 years, according to Mike Jennings, HollyFrontier’s president and chief executive officer.

But Jennings said given the crash in oil prices caused by both oil price wars and the coronavirus, the company did not believe petroleum refining was a sustainable business.

In addition, the company was looking at high operating and maintenance costs related to the refinery over the next three to five years, he said.

Swift said there is a growing demand for diesel fuel made from renewable resources, particularly in California, but also in Colorado.

The Cheyenne refinery was well-suited for the conversion because some of the equipment already in place can be used to produce the renewable diesel, she added.

Any equipment not used in the production of renewable diesel will be idled, Swift said.

The conversion process is expected to cost about $125 million to $175 million, the company said.

When the work is finished, about 80 employees will remain at the refinery.

The company will work where possible to put employees removed from the refinery to work at other HollyFrontier plants, Swift said.

She added the company wants to continue working with Cheyenne as it has in the past.

“We want to continue to be in the Cheyenne community and want to continue to be a strong community partner,” she said. “This is a way we can stay in the community.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming Business Owners Can Require Face Mask Use

in Business/Coronavirus/News
4674

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

As businesses reopen nationwide, shoppers are increasingly encountering “no mask, no service” signs, which has some people asking, “Can they do that?”

In short, yes, said Melissa Alexander, a University of Wyoming law professor who specializes in health law and policy.

“We as Americans believe in individual liberties,” Alexander said. “So it’s not that there’s a law protecting business owners who want to do this, but rather there isn’t a law prohibiting it.” 

Mask requirements can be likened to “no shirt, no shoes, no service” signs common in many gas stations, tie requirements at some formal restaurants or even smoking restrictions in areas where smoking indoors hasn’t been banned by local officials, she added. 

As long as a business is not targeting a class protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — race, color, religion, sex and national origin — it is allowed to stipulate how their customers shop. Because masks are being required of everyone who enters, such requirements are legal, Alexander explained.

“People who don’t agree with a business’ requirements always have the choice to shop elsewhere,” she said. 

While some states have mask orders in place, which puts businesses that choose not to enforce the rule at risk of losing state aid or licensing, Wyoming has only issued a mask recommendation.

“Wearing a face covering is absolutely not a substitute for social distancing, which remains important to slowing the spread of this virus,” Wyoming State Health Officer Alexia Harrist said in a news release.

The Wyoming Department of Health acknowledges cloth face coverings of the homemade variety are not as effective as N-95 respirators, but still advises residents the cloth covering is better than nothing at all. (https://health.wyo.gov/targeted-use-of-personal-face-coverings-recommended-for-wyoming-residents/)

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Sheridan Police Say They Didn’t Threaten Closure of Restaurant But Non-Compliance Could Lead to Closure

in Business/Coronavirus/News
4507

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Sheridan police did not threaten to shut down a Sheridan restaurant because its employees were not wearing face masks, a spokesman said Thursday.

Instead, Police Chief Rich Adriaens and another officer met with Smith Alley Brewing Co. co-owner Tiffany McCormick to explain the health rules that are in place as restaurants and bars begin to reopen across the state, said Lt. Tom Ringley.

“We never threatened to close the restaurant,” he said. “But closure could be a consequence of non-compliance. As far as we know, she’s in compliance of all of the mandates.”

On Wednesday, McCormick broadcast a 24-minute livestream on Facebook, telling viewers about how Adriaens and another uniformed officer told her that if her business didn’t comply with health regulations, it would be fined and its license could be revoked.

Last week, Sheridan County was given exemption approval to open its bars and restaurants before statewide orders were to begin relaxing on May 15. The exemption was granted by the state on the condition that restaurants follow 21 health safeguards, including one requiring staff members to wear face masks. The conditions are similar to those that will be in place when all the state’s restaurants and bars reopen Friday.

Of the 21 mandates, McCormick declined to require her employees to wear face masks, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

HIPPA guarantees the privacy of health care records and information. The ADA guarantees equal employment opportunities for the disabled.

“I, myself as an employer, cannot ask my employees why they refuse to wear a face-covering. I cannot ask them to do that,” McCormick said in the video.

Ringley said Adriaens and another officer met with McCormick after the department received a complaint about Smith’s employees not wearing masks around 12:40 p.m. Wednesday.

“We’re trying to seek compliance through education, warnings and citations as an absolute last resort,” Ringley said. “When we got the complaint on Wednesday, Chief Adriaens and the second officer went and met with the owners to educate them on what the standard was and how they weren’t in compliance.”

Adriaens brought a second officer to the discussion because that officer was carrying a body camera and could record the entire encounter.

Later Wednesday night, an officer on foot patrol in downtown Sheridan checked in on the brewery and saw that employees were wearing masks, complying with health orders.

Ringley explained that he empathized with McCormick’s situation as a small business owner and understood why she might have complaints. But ultimately, the Sheridan police have no desire or authority to close any bar or restaurant, he said.

Wyoming Department of Health spokeswoman Kim Deti told Cowboy State Daily in an email that a brewery wouldn’t be a fully-covered entity under HIPAA like the Health Department or a hospital would be.

“Beyond that, we will decline to interpret how privacy rules would or should be applied to a particular business,” Deti wrote. “The statewide and county public health orders in effect are lawful; enforcement is primarily left to the discretion of counties.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Cheyenne Hospital Likely to Lose $10M for April Due to Coronavirus

in Business/Coronavirus/Health care/News
4222

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

The Cheyenne Regional Medical Center will likely see a loss of close to $10 million for the month of April, its CEO said in a statement Friday.

Hospitals across Wyoming have taken major financial hits during the coronavirus pandemic, due to the increased social distancing practices calling for fewer people to be in the building at one time and the cancellation or postponement of elective surgeries and other procedures.

CMMC CEO Tim Thornell said the hospital lost $1 million in March and is projecting an operating loss of close to $10 million for April.

“Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, like every other hospital in Wyoming, is certainly feeling the negative financial impact that COVID-19 is having,” Thornell said in a statement. “We are seeing about a 30% reduction in inpatient care and an upwards of 50% reduction in outpatient care.”

The hospital system is managing the situation, but Thornell noted that these losses aren’t sustainable in the long term. To address funding shortfalls, CRMC is using financial reserves to supplement current operations, which means major capital projects have been placed on hold to divert funds to daily operations.

There is also a hiring freeze in place at the hospital and overtime is being limited. Reduced hours have been implemented for select non-urgent service lines.

“Our volumes are down in all areas,” Thornell said. “We have a strong and dedicated staff that continues to provide the best possible care to our community during these challenging times.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Gordon Extends Health Closures/Orders Until April 17

in Business/Coronavirus/News
3649

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon and State Health Officer Alexia Harrist have extended the three statewide health orders closing some businesses and restricting gatherings through April 17 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The current orders have closed public places such as schools, bars, coffee shops and some personal service businesses such as hair salons and tattoo parlors, as well as limited gatherings of 10 people or more in a single room or confined space (including outdoors). Food establishments providing curbside services, delivery or drive-thru can remain open.

“I have extended these orders in consultation with Dr. Harrist,” Gordon said in a news release. “Because we’ve seen cases identified in additional counties and growth in the case numbers, it’s clear how important it is for us to take sustained action. I understand the ongoing strain that these measures are having on businesses, workers and Wyoming communities. But it is imperative that our citizens respond to this public health crisis by staying home whenever possible and practicing proper social distancing when they must go out. This is how we can save lives and protect people’s health.”

Harris emphasized the extension is necessary because social distancing measures are critical to slowing of the spread of the virus and monitoring the impacts of those measures on the outbreak in Wyoming.


“The best tool we have to reduce the potential burden on our healthcare system and save lives is for all of us to limit our contact with other people as much as possible,” Harrist said in a news release. “Of course it is most important for people who are ill to stay home unless they need medical attention.”

The state currently has 70 confirmed cases of the virus.

Lander Gin Distiller Now Making Hand Sanitizer

in Business/Coronavirus/News
3592

By Paul McCown, owner of Huck Gin in Lander

A few months back, I decided to formalize something I’ve done for fun in the past: making gin.

After my lovely bride questioned my sanity (she has occasions to do this on a regular basis), I decided to start a gin distillery right here in Lander.

Over the last few months, I’ve been pulling together all of the ingredients, equipment, and licensing required.

My first product, Huck Gin, will have a leading flavor profile of juniper, accompanied by strong infusions of huckleberry, all made from locally-sourced ingredients from right here in Lander and the Rocky Mountain West.

Now, with coronavirus impacting our community, I was asked by the Wyoming Business Council in conjunction, with the state of Wyoming, if I could convert my gin stilling operation to focus on the production of germ-killing hand sanitizer?

This was certainly never part of my plan, but with such a strong need across the state, I feel a firm calling to give back to this wonderful place I call home. So while I’ll be busy at my distillery, it won’t be from creating Huck Gin just yet. 

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other distilleries in the state. On a recent afternoon, we all had a call together with the federal agencies that will be required to get this done.

I can’t stop thinking about how amazing this community and state are. Competitors, all putting it aside for a higher cause. This is truly a special place. 

Editor’s note: A number of Wyoming distilleries have committed to producing sanitizer to help make up for shortages, including Backwards Distillery in Casper, Koltiska Distillery in Sheridan, Chronicles Distilling in Cheyenne, Pine Bluffs Distilling, Melvin Brewing in Alpine, Wyoming Whiskey in Kirby and Jackson Hole Still Works and Grand Teton Distillery in Jackson. The Wyoming Business Council on Tuesday was directed to provide financial assistance to any distillery manufacturing hand sanitizer.

Grocery stores announce special hours for vulnerable adults, limit daily hours

in Business/Coronavirus/Food/News/Wyoming
Apple City Festival
3467

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases climbing every day, grocery stores across the country have recognized a specific need among customers. 

Certain groups, such as the elderly, people who have underlying health conditions and pregnant women, are the most susceptible to the coronavirus. With the addition of people panic buying unnecessary extra supplies, those vulnerable adults are often risking their health to shop in grocery stores with empty aisles. 

But more and more grocery stores across the country and in Wyoming have pledged to create special hours for these high-risk individuals, allowing them to come into stores for a certain amount of time and shop at a time they can avoid large groups of people. 

Walmart announced an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday until April 28. Customers 60 and older will have the opportunity to begin shopping one hour before the store opens for the general public. The pharmacy and vision center will be open at this time, as well.

Albertsons and Safeway will reserve two hours every Tuesday and Thursday morning, 7 to 9 a.m., for vulnerable shoppers, including seniors, pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems. 

Dollar General will designate the first hour at all of its stores as open daily to senior shoppers. 

Big Lots will reserve the first hour of each day for seniors and those most at-risk concerning the virus.

Many of these chains, such as Walmart and Albertsons, are also limiting their daily hours to help combat the spread of the virus.

Year of the Pig sees Wyoming cut the fat, celebrate equality, go gaga for choo-choo trains

in Agriculture/Business/Energy/Jobs/News/Transparency/wildlife
Year of the Pig
2613

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

In 2019, Wyoming celebrated the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, welcomed back members of the Black 14 and bemoaned the worsening coal crisis.

Cowboy State Daily was there to cover it all.

Here’s some of our top stories from throughout the year.

Coal

Mineral extraction in Wyoming could enter a slump in the next four years, and the coal industry is slated to experience the worst of it, according to a report produced by Gov. Mark Gordon’s Power Wyoming initiative.

Some of the initiative’s scenarios predicted a recovery period in two years, but most, and the most likely, predicted a devastating decrease in both Wyoming’s total employment and population.

For the residents of coal country, those predictions could be life changing.

“The coal jobs have historically been the stable jobs,” said Alison Gee, a Gillette attorney. “Now, we’re shifting to an environment where we have to look to oil and gas to try and provide some of the stability for our families. And as you know, the oil and gas markets just aren’t that way. They’re very volatile because of the world economy.”

Although several hundred miners returned to work at the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr coal mines after Eagle Specialty Materials assumed ownership from the bankrupt former owners, Blackjewel, the reverberations of 600 coal miners being laid off in one fell swoop earlier this year are still being felt statewide.

Corporate income tax

Despite dying in the Senate during the 2019 Legislative Session, a legislative committee is once again studying a proposal to impose an income tax on so-called “big box” stores.

The Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee listened to testimony in September regarding a 7 percent corporate income tax on companies with more than 100 shareholders.

A similar proposal, House Bill No. 220, referred to as the National Retail Fairness Act, was not considered by the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee before a deadline in February.

Both measures were raised as state officials were faced with rapid declines in the state’s mineral tax revenues, historically the biggest contributors to Wyoming coffers.

Irrigation collapse

After an irrigation canal collapsed, leaving more than 100,000 acres of farmland in Goshen County and Nebraska without water for months this summer, officials are looking into ways to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Built by the Bureau of Reclamation more than 100 years ago, the Gering/Fort Laramie Irrigation Canal collapsed in July, causing the governors of Wyoming and Nebraska to declare states of emergency.

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture later said crop losses would be covered by insurance, a previous economic analysis report produced jointly by the Nebraska Extension and University of Wyoming Extension originally estimated the collapse could cost both states about $90 million combined. 

Opening the books

After a years-long legal battle between Wyoming officials and non-profit organizations over state government transparency, Wyoming State Auditor, Kristi Racines released Wyoming’s checkbook  shortly after taking office in January.

The data dump contained approximately 4.9 million line items of expenditures made by state agencies during the last six years, but it does not include several spending categories such as state employee salaries or victims’ benefit payments.

Racines took transparency a step further and launched a website dedicated to providing the public with basic spending data for the state.

Using the data provided through both the checkbook and website, Cowboy State Daily covered a series of state spending stories including the Wyoming Office of Tourism’s sponsorship of rodeo teams, the Wyoming Department of Correction’s purchases of religious items and a look at Wyoming’s own air fleet

Big Boy

The largest steam engine ever built, the Big Boy locomotive, crossed Wyoming for the first time in 60 years, bound for Utah and the 150th anniversary of the completion of the country’s first transcontinental railway.

“A steam locomotive is a living, breathing piece of machinery,” said Bob Krieger, a former steam locomotive engineer who now runs the UP Historical Society in Cheyenne. “You can see its muscles. You can hear it breathe as it pulls a grade. All steam engines do that. The Big Boy is just the biggest.”

Train enthusiasts from all over the world flocked to Wyoming to witness the historic trip.

Capitol renovations

State agencies started moving back into the Wyoming Capitol building this summer as a $300 million renovation project neared its end.

The refurbishment of the 129-year-old Capitol was the centerpiece for the Wyoming Capitol Square Project that also involved updating the Herschler Building to the north and the space between them.

The reopening ceremony coincided with the celebration of Wyoming’s Statehood Day, and the unveiling revealed a Capitol building considered to be much more accessible to the public, with larger rooms, broader passageways and more open space.

“They’ve done a lot of stuff here that opened up the Capitol,” said Joe McCord, the former facilities manager for the Capitol. “The stairs going into the House and Senate are wide open right now. Downstairs, you’ve got the galley that’s wide open. The rooms are bigger. I just love it, what they’ve done. They’ve done a great job.”

Despite being mostly complete, many agencies were still working with temporary furniture towards the end of the year as the state worked out the details of new furniture request for proposal.

Taco John’s

There was a whole lotta Mexican goin’ on at Taco John’s 50th anniversary this year, some of which the company is taking to Minnesota.

While founded in Cheyenne half a century ago, the fast food chain announced in December it was expanding its corporate office to Minneapolis, where there are more than 200 Taco John’s locations within a few hours drive from the city. But for those readers who can’t get enough oles, the franchise is slated to remain headquartered in Wyoming. 

Women’s Suffrage

State legislators kicked off the 2019 Legislative Session by passing a measure setting aside a day to recognize Wyoming as the first state in the nation to give women the right to vote.

The measure declared Dec. 10 as “Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day,” which marks the day in 1869 when Territorial Gov. John Campbell signed the bill giving women the right to vote in Wyoming.

Marking the occasion with music, the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra commissioned an original work from American composer Stephanie Ann Boyd. 

“Wyoming, of course, put through women’s suffrage about 50 years before everybody else, and so we’re taking the inspiration of that, and the stories of the women that were instrumental in that, and writing a piece about them, but also writing essentially a 25-minute minute love letter to Wyoming,” Boyd said.

On Dec. 10, women and men marched to the Capitol commemorating the newly declared holiday and highlighting instances of inequality that still need to be addressed.

Black 14 

Fifty years after the University of Wyoming expelled 14 members of its football team, known as the Black 14, for wearing black armbands onto the field, race relations are still strained in the Equality State, said Mel Hamilton, one of the Black 14.

“It’s a shame to say, but it’s pretty much the same as when I entered Wyoming in 1965,” Hamilton said, adding, “with one exception — it went underground.”

Adding diversity to the history books and teaching students how minorities contributed to growth of the U.S. as well as informing them how racism was cultivated by ignorance would be a strong step toward improving Wyoming’s future race relations, Hamilton said. 

“They must be allowed to learn what other races have given this country,” he said. “They are ready to lead the way if we — the old vanguard — just get out of the way and let them do it.”

Chronic Wasting Disease 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department released a draft plan to address a fatal disease running rampant through the state’s wildlife population.

“(Chronic Wasting Disease) has been documented spreading throughout the state, and there are areas where its prevalence is high enough that we think it could be having significant impacts on some of our herds,” said Justin Binfet, one of the plan’s authors and a Game and Fish Department wildlife management coordinator. “The plan is based on recommendations that were developed through an extensive collaborative process.”

Dubbed a “suite of strategies,” the plan suggests managing the disease by installing wildlife feeding bans, potentially targeting mule deer bucks during breeding season, voluntary and mandatory submission of harvested animal samples and working with landowners, cities and counties to eliminate areas with unintentionally high concentrations members of the deer family.

Gambling is booming under the radar, hurting players, state coffers

in Business/News
gambling
2329

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Traditionally, Wyoming takes a conservative stance against the gambling industry, but technological innovations and legal gray areas are moving the state closer to its Wild West roots, a state senator said.

“We really don’t know what’s there, and it varies county to county and town to town,” said Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower. “You may have a poker game in one town, and the next town over, it isn’t allowed.”

The overview of gambling in Wyoming is further muddied by “skill games,” which are becoming increasingly popular barroom additions across the state.

“We had so-called skill games or gray games come in on what they saw as a crack in the law regarding skill games,” Driskill said. “At this point, there’s probably between 500 to 1,000 of these machines out there that at some point in the past would’ve been deemed illegal.”

A member of the Legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee, Driskill is drafting a bill that would transform the state’s Pari-Mutuel Commission, which currently oversees horse racing and historic horse race gambling ventures, into the Wyoming Gaming Commission, which would oversee gambling on a broader spectrum.

“The attempt at the commission and the new bill are not attempts to expand gaming in Wyoming, merely to define what’s already there,” Driskill said. “It would also create a model that anyone who is gaming in Wyoming would need a permit or a license, so the state knew where and what gaming is occurring.”

Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association, said he’s lobbied for both the alcohol and gaming industries throughout the years, and Wyoming could benefit from an oversight committee.

“There’s nothing keeping bad operators from coming in and setting up shop right now,” Moser explained. “(The Liquor Association) is in a highly regulated industry, and we appreciate oversight, because we serve a product that provides some wonderful benefits when consumed in moderation, much like the gaming industry.”

Many of the skill games currently operating in the state are located in places that serve alcohol, so the operators Moser represents have questions about how to keep it all above board.

“We don’t want our retailers to get in trouble,” he said.

Determining what is legal, however, is complicated, Driskill said.

“Right now, there’s really only two entities that regulate gambling — the county attorneys and the (then-Wyoming) Attorney General,” he said. “Consequently, because of the number of lawsuits in the works by the gaming industry, (the county attorneys) aren’t willing to take it on, because these guys have enough money to take it to court. They don’t want to end up in endless litigation.”

Mired in gray areas and absent the support of county attorneys, gambling is being overlooked by local law enforcement, Driskill added.

“From the testimony we’ve had in the counties, their law enforcement in cities and counties don’t know what’s happening in their boundaries at all,” he said. “It really leaves it to the Wild, Wild West.”

Despite most gambling being illegal throughout the state, games are taking place on a regular basis. But, without oversight, the players bear all the risk.

“The machines that are out there, you don’t know what they’re set at, 1 percent (payout) or 80 percent,” Driskill said. “You really don’t have anywhere to go if someone cheated you in a poker game or to report a bad machine.”

A gaming commission could alleviate many of these problems, but it’s not a new idea.

“Gaming commissions have been proposed in some form for the last decade,” Moser explained. “We’re the only state that doesn’t license bingo or pull tabs, and the skill games are falling into the same area.”

Skill games are typically defined as games in which interaction with the player affects the result, he said.

“They consider video poker as a game of chance,” Moser said. “Games of skill are legal and games of chance are not for the most part.”

Responding to an inquiry from Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigan requesting a formal opinion regarding some machines manufactured by Banilla Games, Attorney General Peter Michael listed ten skill games his office deemed gambling. Those games include:

  • Bathtime Bucks
  • Fruity Sevens 
  • Searing Sevens 
  • Snake Eyes
  • Wheel Deal
  • Spooky’s Loot
  • Mega Money Reel 
  • Lucky Striker 
  • Major Cash
  • Pedro’s Hot Tamales

Moser explained Michael’s formal opinion determined these games were won by chance, rather than the player’s skill.

Despite the list, Driskill said numerous other machines are still in operation.

“These machines are nearly doubling every year,” he said. “The initial numbers right now indicate that the creation of the commission and authority to require licensing would raise $12 million to $15 million for the state.” 

With or without oversight, Driskill said gambling is growing in the Cowboy State.

“The biggest takeaway is whether you’re pro-gaming or against, you’re going to have major expansion in gaming if you don’t do anything with it,” he said.

Go to Top