Natrona County Commission Considering New Off-Site Horse Betting Facility
The Natrona County Board of County Commissioners has voted to table a vote to add another off-track horse wagering facility in Natrona County.
Bob Moberly and Kyle Ridgeway of 307 Horse Racing, Inc. a subsidiary of Wyoming Financial Group (WERCS) and a member of 307 First, met with the County Commission on Tuesday to propose their plan to purchase the C85 Pump Room, rebrand it, and add off-track horse wagering.
"What we're here to discuss today is that we're looking for permission to open our first gaming location in Natrona County," Ridgeway began his address to the commission. "We wanted to get in front of you to answer questions and explain what the mission is."
Ridgeway explained that 307 Horse Racing currently has a facility in Gillette that has been opened for approximately three months. They're also in the midst of opening a facility in Sheridan as well. He also gave a brief history on horse track betting and explained the downfall and the uprising of the industry.
"In Kentucky, in the 2000-2010 timeframe, the race tracks were dying," Ridgeway said. "There were lots of other venues for entertainment. People weren't going to the track and that was hurting the purses. It was an important interest industry to Kentucky."
Ridgeway said the industry decided to implement horse racing machines. They look like slot machines, he said, but they're actually para-mutual wagering machines.
"All of the data on these machines is based on historical horse races that go back a number of years," he informed the board. "When you push the button, the data that's actually running on there is a para-mutual wager. And when you get into the machine, you can actually handicap the de-identified horse race before you spin or before you play."
Kentucky passed a law for those machines to be placed and played at race tracks and it completely turned the industry on its head.
"Kentucky Downs was a dying location and now it's a billion dollar company," Ridgeway stated.
Ridgeway then explained the history of horserace betting in Wyoming before getting into the economic benefits of bringing another off-track race betting facility to Casper
Currently, Wyoming Downs already offers off-track betting to residents of Natrona County. Per their website, "Wyoming Downs Racetrack is the largest and only privately owned racetrack in Wyoming." It's available in 14 different locations throughout Wyoming, in Casper, Evansville, Cheyenne, Laramie, and more.
Still, Ridgeway and his team believe that the addition of another off-track horse race facility will only benefit the county, as well as the state; specifically in economic terms.
Ridgeway stated that, according to third party estimates, the addition of 307 Horse Racing could increase the total market from $30 million to $40 million annually, from the Pump Room location alone.
One of the biggest draws of this new venture, Ridgeway said, was that the entire production is Wyoming-based and Wyoming-focused.
"We are a 100% Wyoming-owned operator that wants to participate in this industry," Ridgeway said. "The reason we want to participate in this industry is because we feel like we can actually grow the horse racing industry, because we're committed to doing that. We're committed for this money to go to that. We're committed to expand racing with the 307 First mission."
Ridgeway explained that this venture will utilize Mountain West Technologies to run all of the network diagnostics for the games that will be put in across Wyoming.
"We're using a local IT company to do all of our networking for these machines," he said. "We're using local contractors for the facilities that we open to construct and build and make them state-of-the-art and make them nice. The difference in what our approach is versus our competitors is A) we're trying to build state-of-the-art nice facilities that are locally owned and B) we're committing to use all local contractors, to the extent that we can, including IT, internet, construction, what have you. And C) we know that that money stays here in Wyoming."
Based on third-party projections, Ridgeway said that the market for horse racing is only going to grow in 2022, especially if the commission were to approve the addition of 307 Horse Racing.
"We may take some from our competitors, but overall, you're going to have an additional growth in tax revenue based on our consultant," he stated. "2021 was estimated to be $3.3 million in tax revenue, split by Natrona County and the City of Casper. And the projection in 2022 with our added facility is $4.4 million. Our facility is roughly going to add $900,000 in additional tax revenue to the county and the city,"
Ridgeway said that in terms of the actual Pump Room, there will be some slight changes.
""We're keeping all the employees," he assured the Commission. "The restaurant is going to stay the same. We're going to continue to have the bar there, we're just going to slim down the size of the liquor store and make it a little bit smaller, and then have the gaming space in the area where the liquor store was."
Ridgeway answered questions from the Commission regarding the distribution of the funds that 307 Horse Racing will accrue, and then the Commission broke until their 5:30 P.M. meeting.
At the Tuesday evening meeting, Commissioner Brook Kaufman moved to table the vote to approve 307 Horse Racing proposal until the following meeting on December 21.
"We did have a presentation by 307 First today and I appreciate the information," Commissioner Kaufman stated. "I felt like it was a really good education. There's a lot of information about gambling that I don't have a lot of context for, or I don't have the answers to. So I'm going to recommend that we table this until the next meeting, only because I want to better understand what the gaming commission has, as far as locations in Natrona County. It's not that I don't like the concept. It's not that I want to slow private business down. I just want to better understand what's going on in Natrona County.