Amendment 77 Would Be Economic Life Preserver For Struggling CO Gaming Towns

Written By Ian St. Clair on 10/09/2020 - Last Updated on January 7, 2022

Colorado gaming towns need help.

The financial toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the Colorado casino industry, Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek, the two counties and even the state has been pure havoc.

Amendment 77 is the possible lifeline.

As Colorado begins to send general election ballots to voters today, they’ll see the constitutional amendment included.

Karen Crummy, the spokeswoman for Local Choice Colorado, told PlayColorado:

“When Colorado legalized gaming in these historic towns 30 years ago, they were on the verge of becoming ghost towns. But they successfully transformed into resort destinations centered on gaming, building hotels and opening retail shops and restaurants. Tourism and gaming revenue now make up the bulk of these towns’ tax revenue.

“But now they are fighting for survival. The coronavirus has devastated their towns. Colorado’s once-thriving tourism and hospitality industry has been severely impacted by COVID-19 and faces a multi-year recovery. Shutdowns, furloughs and reduced capacities have ravaged these three towns, and their businesses, governments and communities are gasping for air.

“Giving Cripple Creek, and the other towns, the option of adding games and raising limits could be the life preserver they need. It would increase tax revenues and improve local economic opportunities, boost travel and tourism jobs and generate more money for restaurants, hotels, and casinos.”

What is Amendment 77?

The proposed amendment would give the voters of three gaming towns the right to approve the maximum bet of any amount. The amendment was originally called Initiative No. 257 until it got the required 125,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

The voters would also approve the addition of casino games to what is allowed in the Colorado Constitution: blackjack, craps, poker, roulette and slots.

However, the initiative does not alter gaming laws in Colorado.

If the initiative passes, it merely gives residents in the three towns the option to hold a local election and decide whether residents want to extend betting limits and games.

As Crummy said:

“This right of self-governance goes to the heart of Amendment 77, which gives residents in Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk the right to make basic decisions impacting their local economies and financial future. These towns have built their local economies around hotels, restaurants, travelers and tourists who visit because of gaming. If these small communities want to increase betting limits to spur local economic activity, they should be allowed to do so because they are the ones most directly affected.”

How Amendment 77 will help

As it stands now, Colorado and South Dakota have limits on max bets. The limit at casinos in Colorado is $100, and it is $1,000 at the casinos in the historic town of Deadwood.

In terms of the games casinos could add, the one most commonly referenced is baccarat.

The addition of more games doesn’t just mean more revenue, it means more workers. The casinos in Gilpin and Teller counties would need to add more dealers and tables.

As David Farahi, the president of the Colorado Gaming Association (CGA) and COO of Monarch Casino and Resort in Black Hawk, said in June:

“(Amendment 77) gives local control. It lets the communities that are most greatly affected by gaming decide for themselves what they want limits to be. And what new games they want to introduce. For example, baccarat is a pretty standard game in casinos around the country. But as a card game, baccarat is not legal in Colorado.”

What are the concerns?

Crummy said that Amendment 77 has no organized opposition.

But what are the possible concerns voters may have?

According to Crummy:

“The only concern we’ve heard is that some people become addicted to gambling. Anyone struggling with any type of addiction is a serious cause for concern and should not be taken lightly. This measure, however, is not about legalizing gaming — it’s been legal for 30 years in these three towns. Instead, this amendment is about the right of residents in Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk to make basic decisions impacting their local economies and financial future.”

Similar gaming amendments in CO

In terms of the historical background, this same amendment has been approved by Colorado voters and it wasn’t too long ago.

In 2008, Colorado voters approved Amendment 50.

The constitutional amendment granted the residents of the three gaming towns the authority to institute changes. The residents could vote on whether to extend casino hours, approve additional games and increase the maximum bet limit.

Sounds familiar, right?

Amendment 50 added craps to the list of games casinos in Colorado could offer and set the max limit bet at $100.

So, in essence, Amendment 77 enhances Amendment 50.

Now the key question: Will voters approve Amendment 77 and give the gaming towns that possible lifeline?

As Crummy said:

“It’s no secret that high turnout is expected this election cycle. We are reaching out to as many Colorado voters as possible and letting them know why they should vote yes on Amendment 77.”

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Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

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