Colorado Casinos Look to Raise Single-Bet Limits, Add Games

Colorado Casinos Look to Raise Single-Bet Limits, Add Games
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Editor’s note: One in a series of articles on U.S. sports betting and gaming issues that will appear on Nov. 3 ballots.

Colorado voters will be going to the polls on Nov. 3 to cast their ballots on a gambling proposal that would set the stage for — another election.

Actually, the statewide vote’s ultimate purpose is to allow residents of Colorado's three gambling towns to then make decisions on two things: raising single-bet limits and adding types of table games at the casinos already in those three towns.

Assuming the statewide vote is “Yes” on amending the state constitution — Amendment 77 — there would be a follow-up election in which the only voters casting ballots would be the ones in each of those three gambling towns: Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek. Technically, the vote is known as a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute.

2020 Election Previews

Currently, the single-bet limit at Colorado casinos is $100. Casino games are limited to slots, blackjack, craps, roulette and poker.

When casinos were introduced in Colorado in the three old mining towns in 1991, betting limits were $5; the games were slots, blackjack and poker, and operating hours were 18 hours a day. In 2008, statewide voters approved an amendment that allowed local voters to then raise the bet limit to $100, add craps and roulette, and increase operating hours to 24 hours a day.

Much of the additional tax money raised as a result of those changes was directed to community college education. The same would be true if the betting limits were raised further. The local towns and counties would also receive additional tax funds.

Assuming Amendment 77 passes, exactly how high the betting limits are raised and specifically what table games are added would be decided in the local town follow-up elections. Presumably, the most important game addition would be baccarat.

Colorado is one of six states that have gaming issues on the Nov. 3 ballot. Maryland, Nebraska, South Dakota, Virginia and Louisiana are the others.

A History of Supporting Gambling

While elections are difficult to predict, past gambling-related elections in Colorado have been decided strongly in favor of initiating or adding gaming. In the 1990 election when the limited gaming was passed, the margin was 57.31% to 42.39%. In 2008, when increased bet limits and additional games were approved, the vote was 59% to 41%.

Colorado voters approved online and brick-and-mortar sports betting last November, and legal wagering began on May 1. Proposition DD barely gained approval, with the "yes" vote at 50.62% and the “no” vote at 49.38%.

There are no estimates of the increase in casino revenues and tax money should the new potential changes occur since each town would decide on the new parameters.

Several casino operators in Colorado have combined to contribute between $3 million and $4 million to the effort to convince voters to vote “Yes” on Amendment 77, including Caesars Entertainment, Penn National Gaming, Monarch Blackhawk Casino and Full House Resorts. Opposition to Amendment 77 has come from those who contend that the changes would lead to increased social ills, such as more disordered gambling.

When Could the Changes Go into Effect?

If the statewide vote is “Yes,” the local elections are expected to be held quickly and the earliest the changes could go into effect is May 1, 2021.

An interesting aspect to the voting in Colorado is that that while the state has a little more than 4 million voters who will have the chance to cast ballots on Amendment 77, the decision on the actual changes in gambling would be decided by much smaller electorates.

The three gambling towns have a combined population of a little more than 2,000 — Cripple Creek (1,270), Central City (about 765), Black Hawk (about 125).

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