A district judge has denied a motion for a preliminary injunction against a resolution Campbell County Commissioners recently passed giving 307 Horse Racing exclusive rights to operate off-track betting within 100 miles of Gillette.
This means that starting Saturday, the two Wyoming Downs locations in Gillette, as well as the Gillette Horse Palace, must shut down that part of their businesses.
After listening to hours of testimony and arguments by both sides Friday afternoon and evening, District Judge F. Scott Peasley ruled against Wyoming Horse Racing and Wyoming Downs, which claimed the commissioners overstepped their authority and asked Peasley to delay the resolution so they could remain open.
On April 20, the commissioners passed a resolution that gives the live horse racing operator control over off-track betting and simulcasting in the county. It also allows that written permission for simulcasting and off-track betting can be given to groups that aren’t putting on live horse races.
Peasley said that based on the limited evidence presented Friday afternoon, he “can’t say the commissioners did not have the right to pass the resolution.”
The resolution does not name a specific live horse racing operator. In 2020, 307 Horse Racing signed an exclusive five-year contract to hold live horse races at Cam-plex, which essentially makes it the only operator that can do off-track betting in Campbell County.
The first of 16 days of live horse racing this season is Saturday, meaning that with the resolution, the three off-track betting locations in Gillette must close their doors.
The businesses argued that both the Wyoming Attorney General's Office as well as the state Gaming Commission have said that the exclusivity for off-track betting should only be for the days live horse races are run. For 307 Horse Racing, that would be 16 days over the next month. The county's ordinance says it's year-round for anyone doing live horse racing.
Eugene Joyce, president of Wyoming Horse Racing, said the county commissioners “passed a resolution knowing full well that 307 (Horse Racing) had an exclusive contract.”
Commissioner Colleen Faber said she did not know the contract was exclusive until the meeting where the resolution was passed.
Peasley agreed with the county’s argument that the resolution doesn't choose favorites among the businesses because no specific names are included. He does not see it as an example of “economic protectionism,” as the plaintiffs tried to argue.
“The potential irreparable harm is extraordinary,” said Traci Lacock, an attorney representing Wyoming Downs.
From dozens of employees losing their jobs to Wyoming Downs and Wyoming Horse Racing losing the customer base and good will that they’ve built up in the community for the better part of a decade, the two companies will suffer from the resolution, Lacock said.
Eric Nelson, managing member of Wyoming Downs, said that if its two Gillette locations shut down, “25% of our revenue would be lost,” and it would have to lay people off and reduce the number of live race days it runs in other parts of the state.
“If you’re forced to close and then reopen, will it injure your reputation? No question,” he said.
“You shouldn’t believe that there is irreparable damage that can’t be remedied. … That’s not true,” said John Sundahl, an attorney representing the commissioners. “Loss of jobs isn’t irreparable damages, expending money isn’t irreparable damages.”