Casper residents and officials weigh in on gambling ‘skill games’ ban

A still from a promo video for Banilla Games shows one of the popular “skill games” units the company makes. (YouTube)

Residents and officials in and around the city of Casper are reacting to a recent statement from the state Attorney General condemning certain skill games as “gambling” and therefore illegal in the State of Wyoming.

Wyoming Attorney General Peter K. Michael issued the formal opinion on the “Wyoming Skill Games,” which are electronic gaming terminals. The devices have become increasingly common with a number of businesses in Wyoming, mainly in bars.

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Casper city councilperson Chris Walsh said on Tuesday afternoon that he had not yet been able to speak with anyone at the city. However, he advised business owners to unplug the machines.

“The opinion on its own stands pretty clearly that those devices are illegal devices,” Walsh said. “If you have them in your establishment I recommend you unplug them immediately and getting it shipped out as fast as you can.”

Walsh warned that users of such machines could be guilty of a gambling misdemeanor and business owners could be guilty of felony-level professional gambling.

“With the cooperation of the device distributors, I have examined how they operate. These machines are illegal gambling devices under Wyoming law,” Attorney General Michael said in a written statement.

“Those who play them are engaged in gambling, which is a crime in Wyoming, and those who provide the games are engaged in professional gambling, which is also a crime in Wyoming.”

Natrona County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Aaron Shatto says that the office has reviewed the formal opinion of the A.G.

“It is our function as law enforcement to enforce state and local laws,” Shatto said. “The Sheriff’s office will notify [county] businesses, that if they have those devices, that they comply with state law.”

Upon hearing the news this morning, Gaslight Social co-owner Matt Galloway immediately unplugged the two skill game machines there. They also had one machine at Keg & Cork that is now dark.

Jim Kanelos, co-owner of The Office, said he turned off his two machines today as well.

Kanelos says the machines are popular in his establishment and provide entertainment, comparing them to pool tables or dart boards.

Kanelos says he believes Wyoming Amusement, the provider of skill games in Wyoming, has acted responsibly.

“They made it very clear how their machines work, and they hoped to have local municipalities pass something to where they’d collect some revenue from these machines,” said Kanelos, who believes there’s a possibility the decision could someday be reversed.

“They’re all over town, no different than the other machines you see in other venues,” said Kanelos. “It’ll be interesting to see what the ultimate decision is, if it can be worked out with benefit to each municipality and the state itself.”

Skill gaming has come under increasing scrutiny this year in other states such as Colorado and Nebraska, where local governments are examining the legality of the games.

For now, Wyoming gaming fans will have slightly fewer options to pass the time at their favorite watering holes.

Oil City News reached out to Wyoming Amusement for comment but did not hear back by deadline.