Polis Vetoes Bill Allowing Colorado Gamblers To Play On Credit

Written By Hill Kerby on 06/02/2023
Colorado Gov. Polis has vetoed a measure to allow casinos to offer credit to customers.

The legislative process exists for a reason, and this time, it worked out for the best for everyone in Colorado.

Colorado SB-23-259, also known as the Extension Of Credit For Limited Gaming, passed through the state Senate and House before Gov. Jared Polis vetoed it.

An awful idea, no matter how you look at it

Senate Bill 23-259 would have allowed casinos to grant gamblers credit, creating the potential for a debt-fueled environment of gamblers playing well beyond their means. It was a recipe for disaster for casinos and players alike, despite bipartisan support from the Senate saying the bill would help out-of-state high rollers fund their gambling without traveling with large sums of cash.

Polis didn’t buy that argument.

“If the purported target of this bill is out-of-state ‘high-rollers,’ then the credit line should be geared specifically to those patrons. However, as currently written and passed, I worry that the bill would contribute to problematic gaming activities and hurt Coloradans, in particular those of limited means, by facilitating dubious instances of consent from persons who are suffering from addiction.”

Had it passed, casinos could have opened credit lines with players, effectively turning them into bankers. 

The bill did not mention caps on interest rates but required a minimum $1,000 loan and only 150 days to repay it. 

Furthermore, it clearly stated that casinos were on the hook for paying taxes on revenue earned from unpaid credit. Casinos could pursue legal action for unpaid debts, opening up a can of worms on the legal, accounting, and operational sides.

Credit bill directly opposes responsible gambling

Barriers were in place, such as credit checks, no outstanding debt, and the need to apply in advance. However, it’s not a good look for casinos, which promote responsible gambling, to encourage people to gamble irresponsibly.

Polis agreed.

“The key element I take issue with here is whether persons with a gambling disorder can meaningfully consent to a transaction. Just as there would be issues with gaining the consent of a person with a substance use disorder who is under the influence, there are also serious issues regarding the ability of a person with a gambling disorder to freely consent to a loan while on a gambling spree.”

The state’s attempt to pass this bill directly conflicts with its attempts to address problem gambling, which recently included providing $1 million in funding for three responsible gaming projects.

Beyond these projects, Colorado offers several resources to help problem gamblers. They include counseling, gambling addiction awareness programs and the ability for players to self-exclude themselves.

Of course, there’s other ways for gamblers to reload. They can use ATMs inside casinos after losing the cash they brought. If they apply for credit, they’ve either hit their withdrawal limit or are going into gambling debt that can jeopardize their well-being and potentially more.

Gambling with money you don’t have is never the solution.

How did this bill make it so far?

Based on the cons that far outweigh helping out-of-state travelers, why did Colorado lawmakers allow this measure to reach the governor’s desk?

Remember, this Senate bill passed through both houses before Polis vetoed it. The Senate passed it with a commanding 25-8 vote, sending the bill to the House.

Interestingly, the initial House vote resulted in a 34-31 defeat, which should have killed it. Then, Rep. Richard Holtorf called for a revote, and the final numbers returned 33-32 in favor of the bill.

Other representatives, such as Jennifer Parenti, alleged that special interests were at play. 

Could veto affect future Colorado online casino legislation?

Although Polis rejected the co-sponsored bill to extend credit, Colorado is and will remain a gambling-friendly state.

In the last few years, Colorado voters have legalized sports betting and removed the silly $100 max bet limit at casinos and sportsbooks in Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek.

Online casino gambling is the next frontier. States like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan are adding millions to their coffers from iGaming taxes. 

The failure of a bad gambling bill shouldn’t affect any future momentum toward legalizing online casinos in The Centennial State. 

In fact, it’s not even stopping one bill sponsor, Rep. Marc Snyder, from ruling out another attempt at allowing casinos to extend credit. He says he may sponsor a bill to allow credit strictly for out-of-state gamblers.

Still a bad idea.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of safe, legal betting, and is grateful to be able to contribute to growing the industry. He has a background in poker, sports, and psychology, all of which he incorporates into his writing.

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