37 Gambling Devices (Cheyenne Elks Club and Cheyenne Music and Vending, Inc.) v. State – Case Brief Summary (Wyoming)

In 37 Gambling Devices (Cheyenne Elks Club and Cheyenne Music and Vending, Inc.) v. State, 694 P.2d 711 (Wyo. 1985), officers of the Cheyenne Police Department had seized from the Cheyenne Elks Club several machines and other devices that allegedly were being used for gambling.

Among the items seized were "two electronic machines identified as Shawnee games and an electronic bingo game." 37 Gambling Devices, 694 P.2d at 714.

In affirming the district court's conclusion that these machines were gambling devices, the Court said the following:

"…With regard to the three electronic machines which were seized, it is clear from the record that these machines were being operated as gambling devices, although unlike the standard slot machines there was no automatic payoff. Instead, those playing the machines were paid in cash by the bartender with the amount of payment depending upon their success in playing the games. See State v. Branney, 62 Wyo. 40, 160 P.2d 972 (1945). It also is established by evidence in the record that these machines were being operated for profit by Elk's Lodge Number 660, and the owner of the machines, Cheyenne Music and Vending Company, Inc. The net proceeds from the operation of the machines was divided between these two entities on a fifty-fifty basis. Cheyenne Music and Vending Company, Inc., concedes that it is organized and operated as a profit-making venture. That fact, as well as the failure of the proof relating to the nonprofit status of the Elk's Lodge, prevents any application of the statutory exception to these particular machines...." (Id. at 717.)

In 37 Gambling Devices, 694 P.2d at 718, the Court performed that exercise in another section of the opinion dealing with the question of whether "pickle cards" were "raffles," which, like bingo, were excluded from the definition of gambling.

The Court did so simply by comparing their characteristics in the context of the common and ordinary meaning of "raffle."

That process went as follows:

"The common and ordinary use of the term "raffle" would not include a game of chance such as the pickles game. Unlike the usual raffle conducted by a charitable or nonprofit organization, pickles cards are marked by symbols which when revealed and compared to a pre-existing chart determine whether the purchaser is a winner. In a raffle the probability of any individual ticket being randomly drawn to win a prize is equal and determined by the total number of tickets actually sold, whereas in the pickles game a predetermined number of cards is to be sold with a predetermined number of winners."

In a passage implying strict construction of the raffles and bingo exclusion, the Court then voiced the assumption that, in crafting the exclusion, the legislature "carefully chose" its limitations, and did not intend to exclude "all lotteries or schemes of chance, 'of any kind or description, by whatever name, style, or title the same may be known' which might be conducted by" eligible organizations. Id. at 719.