Colorado online gambling

Colorado lawmakers may consider whether to legalize online gambling in their state in 2014.

With legal online gambling in the United States up and at ’em in three states already – Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey – it seems like new states are considering joining the party every month. One of the next states that could join those who have already regulated online gambling might just be Colorado, which has long been considered a healthy feeder market for Las Vegas’ land casinos.

A Definite Maybe

Colorado isn’t exactly new to the consideration of online gambling. Like a lot of other states, bills have been proposed in the past; in this case, just last year. Lawmakers took a look at the bill, but it never generated much buzz – either for or against – and the effort ultimately stalled without any real attention.

But that could easily change in 2014. Executives in the Centennial State’s gaming industry are keeping an eye on how their brethren are doing with their online gambling experiences, and how Colorado’s residents might feel about having some Internet games of their own.

“This is something we are monitoring very closely,” said Troy Stremming, executive vice president of government relations for Pinnacle Entertainment, a major regional land casino company with considerable presence throughout the South and Midwest. “With respect to Colorado, when there is a piece of legislation to review, we can make decisions based on whether or not participation will be beneficial to the company,” added Stremming.

Pinnacle owns the Ameristar Black Hawk, Colorado’s largest casino.

Good Revenue Prospects Projected

If Colorado were to offer online poker or other online casino games, it could be a lucrative business. According to industry expert Adam Krejcik of Eilers Research, Colorado online casinos could generate around $112.5 million a year in revenues. That would include about $30-$38 million each year from online poker play alone – a figure that would be important in an alternative situation where only online poker would be allowed, as Nevada has chosen to do so far.

That could be a lot of money for both Colorado’s casinos and the state government. However, that’s only true if the money doesn’t come at the expense of play in land-based casinos. That’s one of the biggest things everyone in Colorado is watching for in neighboring Nevada, as well as in New Jersey and Delaware, which have both regulated a much wider selection of online casino games.

“We had talked very late in last year’s session with some legislators who were interested in pursuing it,” said Colorado Gaming Association executive director Lois Rice. “We’re still exploring it.”

There’s also the question of whether or not Colorado residents want online gambling at all. The Black Hawk casino commissioned a survey this summer to find out what residents thought, and saw little interest from respondents.

“Our survey showed that the voters of the state did not have much appetite for online gambling,” said Black Hawk city manager Jack Lewis.

Still, a group of bipartisan lawmakers took up the issue this year, and are likely to do so again in 2014. With California seen as leaning towards strongly considering online gambling in the coming year and other states also studying the issue, legislators like State Representative Kevin Priola think Colorado should get on board before larger states beat them to the punch.

“Let’s have Colorado as close to the starting line as we can possibly be,” Priola said, “because as soon as the gates open, I think there are only going to be a few states that are going to have enough scale to make it work.”