Amendment 68 Rallies Supporters, Opponents

Amendment 68 would allow a casino at Arapahoe Park racetrack in Aurora, Colorado, and two future racetracks. Supporters recently released a study indicating the new casino would raise $114 in gaming taxes to benefit education. Opponents said existing mountain casinos would lose 30 percent of revenues in two years due to the Arapahoe Park casino.

Education in Colorado would benefit from 4 million in additional tax revenues if Amendment 68 passes, allowing 2,500 slot machines and 65 table games at Arapahoe Park racetrack in Aurora and casinos in Mesa and Pueblo counties after racetracks there have been open five years. The study by the Innovation Group, commissioned by the pro-racino group Yes on 68, further indicated the new casino would generate 8 million for the statewide economy, 8 million for the local economy and create 1,400 jobs with an annual payroll of million. The casinos would pay a 34 percent gaming tax.

Yes on 68 spokeswoman Monica McCafferty said, “The emphasis is on the jobs. That’s especially important to the area because they are well-paying jobs.” McCafferty added taxes from Amendment 68 would provide $132 more per pupil, which is especially needed as school districts have had to cut budgets for several years. “That is real money that can impact a mom and dad,” she said.

Rhode Island-based Twin River Casino, owner of Arapahoe Park, is the primary backer of Amendment 68.

In a response to the Innovation Group report, Michele Ames, spokeswoman for No on 68, said, “I think it’s a deeply flawed economic study when you consider the impact on the mountains casinos” in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. She noted after the Arapahoe Park’s first two years of operations, the mountain casinos could experience a 30 percent drop in revenues, “ultimately killing” them. The author of the study, Thomas Zitt, said he did not weigh the impact of an Arapahoe Park casino on mountain gaming.

No on 68 recently released a letter signed by four of the five Arapahoe County commissioners, four of the 10 Aurora city council members and four of the seven members of the Aurora Public Schools board of education. The Colorado Association of School Boards also recently announced its opposition to Amendment 68.

Another opponent of the amendment, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, said the ballot language does not include guarantees for infrastructure improvements for local governments, such as Arapahoe County and Aurora. “There’s no accountability you’re going to get X, Y, Z out of this,” Cadman said.