Letter to the Editor – Eric Nelson
Editor’s Note: This letter was originally sent to Michelle Panos, policy advisor to Governor Matt Mead, Michael T. Kahler, senior assistant attorney general, and Patrick Neely of Encore Gaming Group on Oct. 22 via email.
To the Editor:
As you know, on Oct. 2, based on an Attorney General’s (AG) Opinion, the Wyoming Pari-mutuel Commission (WPC) revoked its prior approval of Race Tech-supplied historic race (HR) machines and games. The AG’s opinion indicated that the machines, although previously approved by WPC and AG, did not comply with Wyoming law. Unfortunately, in reliance on the original approval, Wyoming Downs acquired, at a cost of over $5 million, HR machines for use in Wyoming.
As a result of the revoking of the prior approval, Wyoming Downs was forced to suspend operations in a number of locations. The suspension has led to the layoff of 45 employees. In addition the 2016 live race season is now in jeopardy. Revenue from the HR machines funded purses and the cost of the live race days. In 2015 Wyoming Downs ran 16 live race days. The purses and revenue generated for the trainers and breeders are a direct function of the use of the HR machines. Without a solution that allows the HR operators to reopen, the horse industry in the state will suffer greatly, and the race industry will probably cease to exist in the state. As you are well aware, the revenue that was going to local municipalities has also stopped.
Wyoming Downs management and remaining employees are working feverishly on a solution that would save the live race days in 2016.
In addition, we understand the WPC is evaluating alternative HR machines in the hopes of finding a machine that operates in a manner that is consistent with the AG’s opinion. Wyoming Downs is concerned that any additional HR machines be vetted through a process that includes securing an AG opinion before millions are spent acquiring the new software and new machines. Wyoming Downs cannot afford to invest millions in reliance of WPC’s approval when that approval can be revoked at a later date based on an AG opinion obtained after the acquisition.
We understand that other manufacturers currently in discussions with the WPC supply games that raise questions as they relate to the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Inc.’s (ARCI) referenced model rules.
Each of these questions and concerns should be fully vetted and addressed by the AG and the WPC so that the operators and the players know that they are acting within the bounds of the law. Wyoming Downs cannot risk the purchase and the customers should not be exposed to a new version of the HR machine, which is subject to a later determination that the machine did not operate within the law.
Let’s put the horseracing back into Wyoming by working together. I hope to give a weekly update to all parties!
Wyoming Downs, LLC