EVANSTON — State officials keep saying the state needs to diversify its income by using other means to help fill the state’s coffers, and horse racing across the state has helped.
In a recent report, Eugene Joyce, managing partner of Wyoming Horse Racing LLC, said the horse racing industry has made “a significant impact on the state’s economy.”
Joyce said his report about a new Economic Impact Study on Wyoming’s Horse Racing Industry “paints a picture of a unique agri-business” and the impact on Wyoming – millions in the coffer.
Joyce traces the changes to a bill the Wyoming Legislature passed in 2013 in which the “Legislature gambled that by permitting pari-mutuel wagering on Historic Horse Races that it would help grow the state’s Horse Racing Industry.”
And grow it has, as Joyce summed up.
“That bet is paying off in spades,” he said.
The growth has been remarkable, according to Joyce’s report.
He noted the Economic Impact Analysis by the Innovation Group “documents the rapid growth and financial impact of horse racing here in the Equality State. Overall the Wyoming Horse Racing Industry generates more than $62 million in annual output for the state’s economy with an annual employment impact of 454 jobs.”
The report states the horse racing industry “is a vital contributor to the Wyoming economy through its various operating activities – including the major racetracks, off-track betting and historical wagering facilities; and the activities of the horse breeders, trainers (including jockeys and grooms) and the horse owners; as well as industry-induced tourism.”
The report noted the horse racing industry contributed over $24 million to the cities and counties in which they operate since 2013.
And, in 2019 alone, those municipalities received $7,934,771.
The increase reflects the change of thought and operation created by the 2013 law, according to Joyce.
The upturn in the horse racing industry has been beneficial to Uinta County and Evanston.
Wyoming Downs, which operates north of the city of Evanston, hosts numerous races and special events over the season. The Downs kicks off this year’s season on July 4 with a Freedom Rally, in which all current and former military and first responders are honored.
Some of the other special events include special Olympics, celebrating cancer survivors, celebrating area agri-businesses, brew fest, Native American Heritage Day and more.
This year’s last day of racing is slated for Aug. 16, and the naming of the leading owner, trainer and jockey.
Evanston also had simulcast off-track facilities.
As for revenues on the local level, the tax revenue from wagering Historic Horse Racing has contributed $187,664.04 to Uinta County and the same amount, $187,664.04 to the City of Evanston, Joyce said.
He added, the tourism impacts for Uinta County are $2.9 million.
The revenue is derived because the Industry currently pays a calculated tax rate of over 25% of gross revenues, with over half of those monies going in direct payments to the cities and counties where they operate.
Since 2013, the number of live race days has grown from four to 32.
In 2013, the Wyoming Horse Racing Industry was looking for a way to revitalize its fortunes, Joyce said. Down from its heyday in the early 1990’s, by 2010 the industry was completely shut down with zero race days and no track operators in business.
“To find a model that would create the economic incentives to jump start racing the industry looked to the Blue Grass State, Kentucky, that had recently legalized historic horse racing. The new product was generating new revenues to benefit horse racing and the state,” Joyce said.
The Industry believed that if it could help a state like Kentucky, then it could surely help here in Wyoming.
In February of 2013 the Wyoming Legislature agreed and passed legislation allowing racetrack operators to conduct pari-mutuel wagering on Historic Horse Races (House Bill 25).