The latest Colorado gaming revenue report is in, and it’s a win for casinos thanks to Amendment 77.
Then Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission commissioners approved distributions from the 2021-22 fiscal year. The total came out to $148,655,614, which ended up being a 39% increase from the 2021-21 fiscal year, according to a release.
The Limited Gaming Fund’s original beneficiaries received $101,831,682 – a 14% increase from last year, per the release. The Extended Gaming Fund’s beneficiaries took $46,823,932, which is a 165% boost from the prior year.
The latest figures are a major turnaround for the state, which saw casino revenue plummet during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facilities shut down during early 2020 before opening back up on a limited basis that summer.
Colorado casinos remained open the rest of the year, but the state closed table betting in an effort to hinder COVID-19’s spread.
“Our goal in passing Amendment 77 was trying to keep customers that were going to other states,” Colorado Gaming Association Executive Director Peggie O’Keefe said.
Also of note: the distributions from August’s meeting only covered the Limited Gaming and Extended Gaming funds. Sports Betting Cash Funds will be allocated at the Sept. 15 commission’s meeting in Cripple Creek.
What is Amendment 77 and how does it help Colorado casinos?
Colorado approved Amendment 77 on Nov. 3, 2020, with 60.54% of voters checking “yes” on the ballot.
The amendment allows voters in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek to add or remove bet limits and approve any new casino games in the three cities. In other words, it gave the cities the freedom to dictate what goes on in their casinos.
Colorado Gaming Association President David Farahi said in 2020:
“(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.”
At the time of approval, Cripple Creek’s former mayor Bruce Brown saw the amendment as a way for the community to bounce back from the pandemic’s economic woes.
Brown told Denver 7 news:
“We appreciate that Coloradans supported our town’s right to determine our future so we can improve economic opportunities for the people who live and work here. Things won’t change overnight, but I believe this will help us get back on our feet.”
Additionally, it bolstered the previous casino tax revenue use for community colleges, adding student retention and completion programs.
Specifically, 78% of the revenue goes toward community colleges, 12% goes to Gilpin and Teller Counties and the remaining 10% goes to Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek.
A brief history of Colorado casino gambling
Colorado legalized gambling in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek in 1991. At that time, the maximum single bet was $5. Slot machines, blackjack, and poker games were the only gambling outlets allowed.
In 2008, the approval of Amendment 50 changed things. Once approved, this amendment increased maximum single bets from $5 to $100, and both craps and roulette were legally offered.
Additionally, Amendment 50 distributed 20% of the tax revenue to financial aid and classroom construction for colleges in Gilpin and Teller Counties, and the trio of cities Black hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek.
According to the Colorado Sun, this amendment generated roughly “$10 million in additional gaming revenue a year.”
Colorado went on to legalize sports betting in 2021.