Colorado Voters to Weigh Gambling Expansion on Election Day

Posted on: October 22, 2020, 05:24h. 

Last updated on: October 22, 2020, 05:43h.

In less than two weeks, Colorado voters will decide whether to approve an amendment to the state’s constitution that would let the towns with gaming properties to decide for themselves whether to expand gambling.

Colorado recently approved sports betting
David Farahi, chief operating officer of Monarch Casino in Black Hawk, Colorado, said state residents wanting to play baccarat now likely will visit Las Vegas. A ballot measure to expand gambling in the state could lead to more gamblers remaining in Colorado. (Image: Denver Westword)

The ballot referendum, if approved on Nov. 3, would pave the way for casinos to offer additional types of games and would eliminate the cap on how much could be wagered on a single bet.

Known as Amendment 77, the proposal also likely would lead players from Colorado to remain in the state when visiting a casino, Colorado Public Radio reported.

Currently, the state’s casinos offer slot machines. Permitted games include blackjack, craps, poker, and roulette.

The radio report suggested the state could possibly add baccarat to casinos. David Farahi, chief operating officer of Monarch Casino in Black Hawk, said Colorado residents wanting to play the game now likely will visit nearby Las Vegas.

In total, Colorado residents now spend approximately $300 million a year when visiting gaming properties located outside of the state, Monarch said, based on a study.

The person that goes to Vegas, six, 10, 12 times a year — if we can get them to come to one of Colorado’s three gaming towns one or two or three of those times — it keeps the dollars in the state,” Farahi told Colorado Public Radio.

Also, the state now has a $100 cap on single wagers. In 2019, it was $5.

A group called Local Choice Colorado is behind the vote on the amendment. Donors to the campaign to pass the amendment include Caesars Entertainment and Penn National Gaming, the radio report adds.

Commercial casinos in Colorado are found in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek.

Opponents Warn About More Problem Gambling

If the amendment is approved, gambling opponents warn there could be increases in problem gambling among Colorado residents.

“People could be losing unlimited amounts of money, jeopardizing their mortgage payments, their healthcare payments, their college payments,” said Jeff Hunt, the director of Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute, to Colorado Public Radio.

This is going to spill out into the community, and we’re gonna have to deal with the social consequences of this, whether you live in the three mountain communities or not,” Hunt added.

But Cripple Creek events coordinator Jeff Mosher said the casinos help the local economy. “That’s what keeps our lights on and our roads paved,” Mosher told Colorado Public Radio.

Additional revenue from expanded gaming could help the town, especially with the coronavirus pandemic hurting the local economy, Mosher said.

Gaming revenues dropped to almost nothing in April and May, the report adds. Casinos were shut down to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Casinos reopened in June. But revenues are not yet where town officials want them to be.

Amendment Could Lead to More Tourism, Revenues

Local Choice Colorado adds that the “measure will help boost travel and tourism jobs and increase revenues for restaurants, hotels, and casinos, which are the lifeblood of these towns,” according to the group’s website.

Colorado has permitted limited gaming in the three mountain communities for almost 30 years.

Sports betting went live in Colorado in March. It was approved in a 2019 ballot referendum.