Long a conservative state when it comes to gaming, Wyoming has taken two significant steps this year which raises its profile considerably. On Wednesday, Gov. Matt Mead signed legislation authorizing a lottery, the 45th in the nation. In February, legislators passed a bill allowing wagering on historic races, often called instant racing.

The Lottery will be established as a corporate entity, and will be allowed to conduct only terminal-based draw games. Instant lottery games are not permitted. Although it can offer its own draw games if it so chooses, because of a limited population it is likely that Wyoming will follow in the footsteps of North Dakota and offer only multi-state games. Like Wyoming, North Dakota cannot offer instant products.

Officials expect net proceeds to run between $5 and $9 million annually, numbers which parallel the North Dakota experience. The first $6 million in profit will benefit the state’s cities, towns and counties; any excess would go to the permanent land fund’s common school account. It is the second lottery in the country to benefit primarily local governments; Massachusetts is the other.

Meanwhile, the legalization of instant racing promises to jump-start Wyoming’s ailing horse racing industry. The machines, which feature pari-mutuel wagering on a library of historic races, were actually operational from August 2003 to July 2005 when approved by the Pari-Mutuel Commission. After a lengthy court battle, they were ruled illegal slot machines by the state’s Supreme Court in 2006.

The experience back then shows just how important the machines will be to horse racing. Handle for just a partial year in 2005 was $12,180,054, about half of the state’s total live and simulcast handle that year. The owners of the dormant Wyoming Downs have pledged to reopen the track in 2014 thanks to the revenues that will be generated by the new machines. They expect as much as $100 million in handle annually.

Instant racing came out of Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, and has also proven successful at two tracks in Kentucky. For example, the machines generated $190.4 million in handle at Kentucky Downs alone during 2012. Elsewhere, Nebraska legislators are working on a constitutional amendment that would let voters decide on the machines after a veto last year. And in January, Michigan’s governor failed to act on an instant racing bill, dashing that state’s hopes.