Initiative No. 257: CO Voters To Decide On Betting Limit Bill In November

Written By Ian St. Clair on 08/28/2020 - Last Updated on October 9, 2020

Initiative No. 257 is headed to the general election ballot.

As a result, the possible lifeline Colorado casinos and workers desperately need is one step closer to reality. Not to mention the three gaming towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. As well as Gilpin County and Teller County. Oh, and the state.

Yes, casinos in Colorado are open, but it’s still under limited capacity and without table games. So Initiative No. 257 is that possible lifeline.

According to a press release from Local Choice Colorado, the Colorado Secretary of State certified Initiative No. 257 for the November general election ballot.

To get on the ballot, Initiative No. 257 needed to get 125,000 signatures by the beginning of August. Now that it’s on the general election ballot, it must get more than 50% approval from state voters. If it does, it will go into effect in May 2021.

What does Initiative No. 257 do?

The proposed initiative would give the three gaming communities the right to approve the maximum bet of any amount.

It also would give them approval for the addition of games at casinos beyond what is currently allowed in the Colorado Constitution. As of now, that consists of 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.

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

“This ballot initiative took on a new sense of urgency once the pandemic paralyzed Colorado and shut down casinos between mid-March and mid-June, crippling the towns’ economies and forcing businesses to layoff and furlough employees. Even though we are open, it is with severely limited capacity, and table games are still prohibited.”

Even playing field for Colorado casinos

As it stands now, just two states have max bet limits: Colorado and South Dakota. The limit at casinos in Colorado is $100, while it’s $1,000 at the casinos in Deadwood.

In terms of the new games, the one most commonly mentioned is baccarat. If voters were to permit the game at Colorado casinos, you would get the jackpot of added revenue and more jobs.

The increase in revenue also turns into more taxes collected.

As Farahi said:

“If passed, this measure could put Colorado on a more even playing field with the rest of the country. Colorado’s current betting limit has not kept pace with inflation, and it lags behind every other state with legal gaming. Of the 23 states with commercial betting, Colorado has the lowest limits and is one of only two states that has state-mandated betting limits at all. If the towns choose to change limits and add games, they could attract high-income Coloradans who would typically travel to nearby Nevada, as well as attract out-of-state, high-stakes bettors visiting Colorado for business or pleasure. This will not only increase tax revenues, but help improve local economic opportunities, boost travel and tourism jobs and generate more money for restaurants, hotels and casinos.”

Similar measures approved before

What’s important to remember is similar measures like this have passed in Colorado before.

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 extending casino hours, approve additional games and increase the maximum bet limit.

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

That sounds almost identical to Initiative No. 257.

As Bill Cadman, the former Colorado Senate President and proponent of the bill, said in the release:

“If these mountain communities want to increase travel and tourism, they should be allowed to do so as they are the ones most directly impacted. The modest boost in revenue would be a win-win for businesses and employees in these towns, as well the community colleges that will receive more resources to help students obtain a college degree.”

Some relief could be on the way

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, casinos in Colorado have taken a large brunt of the economic pain.

Now that Initiative No. 257 is headed for the general election ballot, at least some relief could be on the way.

As Farahi said:

“Tourism and gaming generate the majority of revenue for each one of these three towns’ and two counties’ budgets. Remember that the Wall Street Journal reported that Gilpin County was the hardest hit county in America during the nationwide shutdown. The measure won’t be a game-changer, but any additional jobs, revenue and taxes will make a difference for these towns and local businesses, especially in these unprecedented times.”

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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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