Court rules coyote hunting competition is not gambling

By Ann Jantz Rocket-Miner Via Wyoming News Exchange

GREEN RIVER -- Sweetwater County 3rd District Court Judge Richard Lavery recently split his ruling in the case of a local coyote hunting competition but overall determined the hunt itself is not gambling.
The suit was filed by Joyce Corcoran, who was joined in her claim by the Animal Legal Defense Fund out of California. She brought the suit against Wyoming Best of the Best, Buddha Bob’s Bar at the Sands, Sands Hospitality Inc., Wing Lew, Mark Gillespie, Ron Cheese and Raymond Pecolar, claiming the coyote hunting competition promoted illegal gambling and is a public nuisance. Corcoran asked the court to cancel the competition.
Judge Lavery issued his ruling in writing on Dec. 1. He granted Corcoran’s claim in part and denied it in part. He determined the coyote hunting competition itself does not constitute a nuisance or illegal gambling, as Corcoran claimed, because it requires skill and knowledge to be successful and the participants have a great amount of control over the outcome.
State statute in short defines gambling as risking any property for gain based on chance and over which a person taking the risk has no control.
“The hunter’s training, experience, skill and ability is key,” Lavery stated. “In addition, Wyoming’s definition of gambling specifically excludes a ‘bona fide contest of skill, speed, strength or endurance in which awards are made only entrants or the owners of entries.’ Hunting requires specialized knowledge, skill and endurance.”
Hunt organizer Mark Gillespie said this determination was a big win for Wyoming Best of the Best as well as other coyote hunting contests around in the area because the coyote hunt is the main reason for the competition and the plaintiff did not get it stopped.
“Their (Corcoran and the Animal Legal Defense Fund) whole goal was to stop the coyote hunt, and they didn’t,” he told the Rocket-Miner on Wednesday. “We feel we won completely.”
Judge Lavery also ruled that the big dog, little dog side bet — what WBOTB renamed and now calls big coyote, little coyote, according to Gillespie — is not illegal gambling.
Lavery did rule, however, that several of the different games conducted as part of the competition did constitute illegal gambling. These include the lottery-style game of chance Keno, the Calcutta and the raffle.
Lavery noted the Calcutta did not abide by state statute, which requires such an event meet seven requirements in order to not be considered illegal gambling. In addition, the exception for a raffle is that it be conducted for a charitable purpose, and “there is no evidence” that Wyoming Best of the Best conducted the raffle for a charitable purpose.
Gillespie said the raffle of door prizes was the biggest loss here. The group next time will ask for donations to give away, he said.
Lavery also determined that Buddha Bob’s Bar in Rock Springs was “used for a modicum of illegal gambling” but the owner Wing Lew was unaware and did not believe any illegal gambling was happening at his establishment.
“Mr. Lew only knew that the event was a coyote hunting contest with prizes awarded to the winners,” Lavery stated. He ruled that “all illegal gambling activity at Buddha Bob’s Bar or conducted by WBOTB should be enjoined” (prohibited from performing a particular action by issuing an injunction) and a cash or surety bond of $10,000 agreed upon by the parties was posted for a term of three years.
In a press release, WBOTB explained Buddha Bob’s settled before the trial by posting the $10,000 bond and agreed to the three-year probation, promising not to have any more illegal gaming activities. Additionally, Gillespie, Cheese and Pecolar agreed to pay all the fees related to the bond for Buddha Bob’s Bar. They also agreed to pay a $300 tax to Sweetwater County.
Gillespie said Wyoming Best of the Best as well as Lew have made changes to their operations to ensure they are following Wyoming laws, not just the gaming laws, and WBOTB plans to have coyote hunts in the future.
WBOTB in its press release pointed out that the Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney and Corcoran stated in open court that they have “no opposition to hunting” in general or “coyote hunting” specifically.
“Considering the ALDF’s stated agenda used to raise money each year (is) for the protection of animals, it is likely that ALDF’s thousands of donors will be interested in that recorded remark. This ALDF defeat will likely raise a few more eyebrows with donors too,” organizers stated in the press release.
WBOTB also noted that the outcome of this trial should give other hunting events notice to be careful and make sure all laws are followed during planned events.


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