Casino Issues On Colorado Ballot

This November, Colorado voters in Kiowa, Pueblo and Mesa counties, plus Aurora and De Beque may see casino initiatives on the ballot. Currently commercial casinos are authorized Black Hawk (l.), Central City and Cripple Creek, and the Ute tribes operate two casinos on reservation land.

Voters in Colorado could see several gambling-related initiatives on the November ballot.

For example, Kiowa County’s 961 registered voters were asked if they wanted to pursue a casino. Of the 484 responses, 55 percent said yes. Kiowa County Commissioner William Koehler said, “We’re looking at a single casino, or maybe two. No more than that. There’s no jobs around here.” For the casino issue to be placed on the ballot, a constitutional amendment would have to be proposed by citizens or the legislature.

On the Western Slope, the town of De Beque is working with state Rep. Ray Scott of Grand Junction to refer a casino measure to the November ballot.

In addition, Rhode Island-based Twin River Casino is supporting a pair of citizen-proposed ballot initiatives to allow table games, slot machines and video gambling terminals at its Arapahoe Park horse racetrack in Aurora and potential tracks in Pueblo and Mesa counties. The measures are designed to help Twin River ‘s flagship casino in Rhode Island maintain revenue despite the growing threat of competition. The initiatives will require a minimum of 86,105 certified signatures to appear on the November ballot. Signatures would be due August 4.

Currently, commercial casinos are authorized Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. Also, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe operate two casinos on reservation land in southwest Colorado.

I. Nelson Rose, an expert on gambling law and consultant to government and industry, said, despite more favorable public opinion toward gambling, “I don’t expect that the proposals in Colorado are going to succeed because people tend to not vote to put casinos in their own backyard and you do have all of the operators who are going to lobby against it.”

Regarding the Kiowa County casino proposal, State Senator Larry Crowder of Alamosa added, “I polled some of the senators in the Senate, and I did not find anybody who would support it. I don’t believe that there’s a county in the state right now that would stand a chance in getting additional gambling.”

Still, Koehler said, “We don’t have the finances to do anything great. The private citizens will pitch in and call a senator or two, and plead our case. That’s what we’re going to try, I think.”