May 3, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff WriterWith two months under its belt at Bomber's Sports Bar in Riverton, Wyoming Horse Racing LLC is gearing up for the 2012 Kentucky Derby.
The company runs off-track betting in a non-smoking room adjacent to the bar to allow for betting on thoroughbreds, quarter horses and greyhounds.
The manager of the operation, Brandi Koltiska, said the doors opened at the end of February, and a base of regulars is beginning to grow.
"Once they come, they're really having a good time," Koltiska said. "We offer a good variety."
The derby-based festivities begin Friday with the Kentucky Oaks, followed by the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Both days' first races are at 8:30 a.m.
The 137-year-old Kentucky Derby is one of the most-watched horse racing events annually in the country.
For the derby, Koltiska said the company is hosting a party, including drink specials and a derby hat contest.
"I think it's the first time people can bet on the Kentucky Derby in Fremont County," she said.
Wyoming Horse Racing managing partner Eugene Joyce said one of the benefits of betting at Bomber's is that the wagers go into the national pools, including those betting at the track. The same odds are available for everyone.
The betting room is lined with televisions to watch the races and electronic terminals to place bets. Joyce said the terminals automatically combine the local wagers with those elsewhere.
Drinks from the bar can be brought into the betting room, or those betting can watch the races in the bar.
He noted that literature about how to bet, types of bets and the horses in the day's races are available to everyone.
"The best horse doesn't always win because there's more variables than constants," Joyce said.
Part of what makes the Kentucky Derby fun, he said, is that there are 20 horses racing at once, which is more than usual. Koltiska noted than most of this year's horses are equally matched, making the event more exciting.
Joyce anticipates $150 million to be bet nationwide during the derby Saturday.
"The pools are going to be huge," he said.
He said it's a good day for people to introduce themselves to horse racing.
"It's something everybody can relate to," Joyce said. "It's part of Americana."
Unless someone wins an exceptionally large amount of money, Koltiska distributes the winnings there. If winnings are large, the company will bring the cash in from outside.
There is no limit on how high a wager can be, and some bets can be made for as little as 10 cents.
Joyce has a long history with horse racing. In 1988, his father purchased Wyoming Downs but sold it in 1998. Joyce then spent the next decade working at tracks in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.
Koltiska also worked in quarter horse racing in Texas.
A couple years ago, Wyoming Downs was going out of business, and Joyce stepped in to help make it into Wyoming Horse Racing.
Cheyenne, Casper, Rock Springs and Evanston, where Joyce lives, were the traditional spots for off-track betting in the state, but he wanted to expand to Riverton and Buffalo.
He came to an agreement with the Fremont County Commission about the local operation late last summer.
Joyce said Riverton is a good fit because there's already gambling in the county with the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes' casinos.
Koltiska and Joyce both noted that a percentage of the handle, or amount bet on a track locally, is put toward breeders and jockies who race in Wyoming.
Betting is open Thursdays through Sundays most weeks, with the doors open from 10 a.m. until the last race of the day. A complete schedule of tracks featured at Bomber's is available at WyomingHorseRacing.com.
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