Colorado initiative to expand gaming types and increase maximum single bets certified for November ballot

Questions set to appear on the Colorado November ballot were finalized on August 27 after the last citizen initiative awaiting a statement of sufficiency was certified for the ballot.

The constitutional amendment, Initiative #257, would allow voters in Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek — the only towns where gaming is legal in Colorado — to approve a maximum single bet of any amount and approve more game types in addition to slot machines, blackjack, poker, roulette, and craps. The measure would repeal language that is currently in the Colorado Constitution that limits the types of games allowed in the casinos and that sets a maximum single bet of $100. The distribution of gaming tax revenue for community colleges in state statute would be amended to include distributions to programs to improve student retention and increase credential completion. If the measure is approved by voters statewide in November, each of the three towns may hold a local election to vote on whether to change betting limits and add new games. The earliest these changes would go into effect is May 1, 2021.

Going into the election, the maximum single bet in Colorado was $100, which was raised from $5 in 2008. The only other state with individual betting limits is South Dakota, where the maximum bet in Deadwood (also a former gold mining town turned gaming town) is $1,000.

The initiative was sponsored by Bruce Brown, the former mayor of Cripple Creek, and former Colorado Senate president Bill Cadman (R). Bruce Brown said, “These towns have built much of their local economies around hotels, restaurants, tourism, and travelers who visit because of gaming. Voters in these communities should be allowed to decide what is best for them and their economy, including whether they want to change betting limits and add new games.” Local Choice Colorado is leading the campaign in support of the measure. According to the most recent reports, the committee had raised $2.25 million and had spent $1.51 million. Top donors included Penn National Gaming, Monarch Blackhawk Casino, and Monarch Casino and Resort, Inc. Local Choice Colorado said, “If local voters choose to approve new games and betting limits, mountain casinos could attract higher-income Coloradans who would typically travel to other states to gamble, as well as out-of-state, high-stakes bettors visiting Aspen or Vail. This will improve economic opportunities for people living in these mountain towns by bringing in more tourists, creating good-paying jobs, and increasing tax revenues.” The Colorado Gaming Association had also endorsed the measure.

Proponents submitted 209,885 signatures to the secretary of state’s office on July 28, 2020. On August 27, the secretary of state announced that 138,232 were projected to be valid based on a random sample. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures were required.

On November 3, Coloradans will see 11 measures on the ballot. Eight of the measures were placed on the ballot through citizen petition drives and concern topics ranging from wolf reintroduction, abortion restrictions, citizenship requirements for voting, paid medical leave, and taxes. The state legislature referred a state statute to increase tobacco taxes and create a new e-cigarette tax to fund various health and education programs and two constitutional amendments: one concerning charitable games such as bingo and raffles and another to repeal the Gallagher Amendment.

In even-numbered years from 2000 through 2018, an average of nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado. The approval rate for measures on the ballot in even-numbered years was about 41%.

Additional reading:
Colorado 2020 ballot measures