Virginia & Nebraska OK Casinos; Colorado Gaming Measure Passes
Virginia, Nebraska and Colorado voters on Tuesday approved adding casinos and expanding gaming options in their states by wide margins.
In Nebraska, three initiatives were passed to allow casino gaming at state-licensed horse racing tracks; Virginia approved casinos in four cities; and Colorado gave its gaming towns the right to increase single-bet limits and to add casino games.
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Initiatives 429, 430 and 431 won approval with at least 65% voting for each measure. The three initiatives legalize casino gaming at licensed horse racing tracks and create a state regulatory body, funded by casinos to govern and license casinos within the state. More than $65 million of new tax revenue is expected each year. Only the passing of all three initiatives guaranteed legalized casino gaming.
In the lead-up to election day, several prominent Nebraska figures were against the gaming measures put on the ballot. Gov. Pete Ricketts, former Gov. Kay Orr and former Nebraska football coach and U.S. Rep Tom Osborne all opposed the three initiatives.
Proponents of legalized casino gaming at licensed horse race tracks projected Nebraska would keep $400 million in revenue from going to other states. The initiatives would also create more than 4,600 jobs statewide, including in rural areas which would support the expansion of the state’s horse racing industry. Counties and cities home to casinos would share 25% of the tax revenue, while 70% of casino tax revenue would be reserved for property tax relief.
In Virginia, residents in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk and Portsmouth approved the first casinos in their cities — and the state — overwhelmingly. The voting breakdown: Bristol (5,457-2,221), Danville (13,022- 5,941) and Portsmouth (28,723-14,344) with all precincts reporting. Norfolk was 42,664-22,976 with 46 of 49 precincts reporting.
On April 22, the legislature passed HB 4 to legalize casinos in those jurisdictions and Richmond. Richmond residents will vote on adding a casino at a later date.
It is not expected that any of the five proposed casinos would be operational in 2021, but the cities have already identified the operators of the casinos — Bristol (Hard Rock International); Danville (Caesars Entertainment); Norfolk (Pamunkey Indian Tribe); Portsmouth (Rush Street Gaming); and Richmond (Pamunkey Indian Tribe).
Virginia also has legalized sports betting and it is leaning toward a 2021 launch, but state regulators have approved rules and have accepted applications for licenses. A state that didn’t permit gambling beyond horse racing will soon have online and mobile sports betting, plus casinos in five cities.
Coloradoans easily approved Amendment 77 allowing 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. The amendment would also approve more game types in addition to slot machines, blackjack, roulette and craps.
Currently, the single-bet limit at Colorado casinos is $100. Casino games are limited to slots, blackjack, craps, roulette and poker.
“This amendment gives local communities the keys to rev up their economic engines,” David Farahi, chief operating officer for Monarch Casino Resort in Black Hawk and president of the Colorado Gaming Association, said Tuesday night in an email after the amendment passed.
The casino initiative comes just six months after the state launched sports betting. Voters passed Proposition DD a year ago to legalize it.
There will now be a follow-up election in which only voters in Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek will decide how high the betting limits are raised and what table games are added.
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