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Mike Moser

Sam Adams Releases 25.4%-Alcohol Beer; Illegal in 15 States But Legal in Wyoming

in alcohol/News
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Good news for Wyoming beer drinkers.

The lack of regulation on the amount of alcohol in beer sold in Wyoming means that the new Samuel Adams “Utopias” beer is legal in the Cowboy state.

Not so in 15 other states where the 25.4% alcohol level is too high for it to be sold.

Last week, Samuel Adams’ announced the latest incarnation of its “Utopias” beer will be released on Oct. 11. The special brews are released every two years and this batch, the brewery said, is made with thousands of pounds of cherries and the highly-coveted “Balaton” fruit — which is another type of cherry — and foodies love it.

The reason it’s making news, however, is due to its alcohol content. At 25.4%, it’s six times what the average beer holds.

Does that make it really that much more intoxicating?

“Oh, sweet Jesus, yes,” said Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association.

Moser explained that drinking a bottle of Utopias would be similar to drinking 17 or 18 ounces of straight tequila.  

He said if a bottle was consumed in one hour, the blood alcohol content level in a 150-pound male could top 0.3%, about four times the legal limit.

“If you drank one of those containers in an hour, you could quite possibly be dead. You’ll either be hospitalized or wish you were,” he said.

Either way it would be expensive. Samuel Adams is selling the beer for $240 for a 28-ounce container.

Beer snobs say the beer is so costly because of the “long, painstaking process of brewing and aging thick yeast-based beverages like Utopias.”

Moser said the beer is so costly because people will pay for it.

“People love these weird beers the same way that they’ll spend $100 on Bourbon that they’ve never tried before,” he said.  “People don’t necessarily drink more today but they are spending more when they do.”

It’s not unusual, Moser said, for the cost of wine to be more than the cost of a meal when going out to eat.

Regardless, he cautioned that Utopias should be considered sipping beer, not a chugging beer.

The states which don’t allow the beer include:  Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.

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Mike Moser: Skill Games Extend Financial Lifeline For Bars And Clubs

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By Mike Moser, guest columnist
Mike Moser is the Executive Director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association.

In March, 2020, House Bill 171 (Wyoming gaming commission) passed the Wyoming Legislature and was signed by the governor into law.

Among other things, HB 171 placed in statute the licensure, regulation and taxation of “skill games” being operated primarily in hundreds of Wyoming bars and clubs, including fraternal and veteran’s organizations.

There is a cap of four per establishment, and since then, over $2 million dollars has been generated for the state.

A few weeks later we were in the middle of a pandemic. These skill games proved to be a financial lifeline to these 300 plus businesses, without of which some, no doubt, would have closed their doors.

That reliable source of revenue during a time when uncertainty reigned is a big reason why some of them are still in business, and their employees still have their jobs.

But there was a difficulty created with HB 171. Built into the bill was a sunset on the operation of the games (June 30, 2021) and a moratorium on those businesses who did not have these games when the bill was signed.

These provisions were put in place so the state could, in effect, test the games out – to see their effectiveness and if they were a good fit for the state.

They’ve proven to be a lifesaver for our bars and restaurants and a good stream of revenue for counties, cities and the state’s education fund.

Since, they’ve passed the test, the “fix” now is Senate File 56 (Wyoming gaming commission-modifications and corrections) currently on General File in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

As helpful as these skill games have been for our small businesses and clubs, without the passage of SF 56, that lifeline would be snapped.

And although we have seen a lifting of COVID restrictions, business is far from normal, and that reliable revenue stream is just as important to our businesses and employees as it has ever been. And we are far from over with the COVID crisis.

SF 56 does not create any new type of gaming, but it removes the statutory death sentence for these machines and the funding stream to our businesses and the State.

We do not have one reason to support SF 56… we have more than 300 reasons; the small businesses in your town that have relied on these games to help keep the lights on. Senate File 56 needs to pass for the sake of those businesses and our employees.

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

in News/Business
gambling
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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.

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