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Colorado Limited Gaming in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek, Initiative 50 (2008)

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The Colorado Limited Gaming in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek Initiative, also known as Initiative 50, was on the November 2008 ballot in Colorado as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

The measure allowed voters in the cities that permit limited gaming to extend the hours of limited gaming operations to 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, to add roulette, craps, or both to the allowed games and to increase the maximum bet from $5 up to $100.The first 80 percent of the new revenue was designed to go to the casinos. Out of the 20 percent left, 22 percent must be distributed to the cities where limited gaming exists for gaming impacts and 78 percent for community colleges in Colorado.[1]

Also, the previous law allowed the tax rate to be raised from the current 20% to as high as 40%, which would still be among the lowest in the country.[2] Initiative 50 changed the constitution so that increases in gaming taxes would have to be approved by a statewide vote.

Election results

Colorado Initiative 50 (2008)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 1,330,566 58.70%
No936,25441.30%

Election results via: The Colorado Secretary of State

Text of measure

The language appeared on the ballot as:[1]

SHALL THERE BE AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION CONCERNING VOTER-APPROVED REVISIONS TO LIMITED GAMING, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, ALLOWING THE LOCAL VOTERS IN CENTRAL CITY, BLACK HAWK, AND CRIPPLE CREEK TO EXTEND CASINO HOURS OF OPERATION, APPROVED GAMES TO INCLUDE ROULETTE AND CRAPS OR BOTH, AND MAXIMUM SINGLE BETS UP TO $100; ADJUSTING DISTRIBUTIONS TO CURRENT GAMING FUND RECIPIENTS FOR GROWTH IN GAMING TAX REVENUE DUE TO VOTER-APPROVED REVISIONS IN GAMING; DISTRIBUTING 78% OF THE REMAINING GAMING TAX REVENUE FROM THIS AMENDMENT FOR STUDENT FINANCIAL AID AND CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES ACCORDING TO THE PROPORTION OF THEIR RESPECTIVE STUDENT ENROLLMENTS, AND 22% FOR LOCAL GAMING IMPACTS IN GILPIN AND TELLER COUNTIES AND THE CITIES OF CENTRAL CITY, BLACK HAWK, AND CRIPPLE CREEK ACCORDING TO THE PROPORTION OF INCREASED TAX REVENUE FROM VOTER-APPROVED REVISIONS IN EACH CITY OR COUNTY; AND REQUIRING ANY INCREASE IN GAMING TAXES FROM THE LEVELS IMPOSED AS OF JULY 1, 2008 TO BE APPROVED AT A STATEWIDE ELECTION, IF LOCAL VOTERS IN ONE OR MORE CITIES HAVE APPROVED ANY REVISION TO LIMITED GAMING?[3]

Support

This measure was sponsored by Shawn Michael Olsen and Richard Evans and was campaigned for by a group called Say Yes on 50!

"The overwhelming majority of the casinos do support this," said Katy Atkinson, spokeswoman for Coloradans for Sensible Solutions, which was supporting the measure.[4]

Coloradans for Community Colleges, the committee that backed the measure, raised another $976,000 from casinos in August, bringing its total contributions to $6.1 million.[5]

By late September, nearly $7 million had been raised, more than half of that from Ameristar and Isle of Capri casinos.[6]

The changes "will make the casinos become a more attractive tourist attraction," Atkinson said. "Casinos have been down (in revenues) rather substantially. It started when the smoking ban took effect in casinos and continued and was exacerbated by economic problems, such as the cost of gasoline," she said.[4]

She added that the changes would bring more money to state coffers and help fund higher education.[4] Seventy-two percent of the extra tax revenue would go to Colorado's community colleges, with the rest going to the three cities and Gilpin and Teller counties to cover costs such as police and road improvements.[6]

Trustees of Metropolitan State College of Denver endorsed the ballot measure on September 4, 2008.[7]

Opposition

Denver lawyer Jon Anderson filed papers to form a committee to accept contributions to oppose Amendment 50, but he had not yet raised any money for the effort as of September 14, 2008.[8]

Anderson and Scott Yates launched a web site called Keep Vegas Out! as a hub for opponents of Amendment 50.

Opponents pointed out that this measure could actually harm community colleges in the long run because their funding base would be tied in the constitution to gambling tax revenues, which are more varied and less reliable than state revenue.[6]

Opponents also said that this would open the door to other gambling operations around the state because of the increased incentive to do so with a new bet maximum that is 20 times the old bet maximum. If a tribe was to establish a new casino in the state it would not have to pay the taxes to support the community colleges, thereby sapping business away from the mountain towns and decreasing revenue for the community colleges.[6]

Opponents argued that the move could fuel a rise in bankruptcies, foreclosures, divorce, and other problems and encourage casino interests to pursue further development of gambling. They argued that the state should figure out another way to aid community colleges.[6]

Yates said the proposal "is bought and paid for by big gambling" and called the community college funding a "PR ploy" to try to get it passed.[6]

Anderson, a lawyer at Holland & Hart who served as chief counsel to former Gov. Bill Owens, said he is not morally opposed to gambling and possibly would support a more gradual expansion. But he believed that the amendment in question was excessive.[6]

"They are now putting the whole kit and caboodle in one initiative," said Anderson, who is not getting paid to fight or work on behalf of any clients. "No doubt they saw all those other initiatives and thought they could sneak one by the people."[6]

Regulator cites tax cap

A state gaming regulator was one of the first prominent voices of opposition to a November ballot initiative that could lead to higher casino bet limits.

Meyer Saltzman, a member of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission, stated concerns about a provision in the amendment that would take authority away from regulators to raise taxes on the industry.

The commission had the power to raise the tax rate on the industry up to 40 percent, though the highest rate charged on a casino currently is 20 percent.

The industry-backed Amendment 50 ballot measure proposed to cap the rate at 20 percent and require statewide voter approval for any increases in the tax rate if the existing $5 casino bet limit is raised.

"I'm against the idea of having a limitation on the gaming tax where you have to go to the vote of the people to get it raised," Saltzman said.[9]

Path to the ballot

Supporters submitted approximately 130,000 signatures in late July—nearly twice the 76,047 valid signatures required to earn a place on the November 2008 ballot.[10] The signatures were certified by the Secretary of State's office on Aug. 8, 2008.[11]

See also

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