by Rick Langenberg
Although the video slot threat at horse tracks has experienced a slight setback, Cripple Creek business and political leaders say they are not taking any chances and plan to mount a full assault against this betting option. Moreover, the city may have to consider footing more dollars into lobby activities at the state level to counter a continual bombardment of measures, aimed at expanding gaming in other parts of the state without a vote of the people.
According to Cripple Creek City Administrator Ray White, a legislative effort to legalize nearly 10,000 video slots (technically referred to as video lottery terminals VLTs) at licensed horse tracks, including a site in Pueblo, has been temporarily halted. The bill proponents, who proposed a similar measure last year, have delayed their measure, House Bill 1280, for consideration. Originally, the measure, introduced by representatives Don Coram and Jerry Sonnenberg, was scheduled for discussion before legislative committees, but apparently didn’t have enough votes to survive the initial test.
However, the VLT threat is far from over. “We fully expect this to come back later in the session,” said White. He, like most local leaders, is worried that the bill backers are playing the educational funding card to the max, and appear much more organized than before. Under their plan, a hefty portion of revenue from the pro-VLT legislation would reportedly establish a Colorado College Scholarship Fund. Plus, the pro-VLT measure wouldn’t require any type of vote statewide or even in the areas where the horse tracks are located. It would merely require the city or county leaders in the horse track areas to give the okay. That fact makes local leaders extremely nervous because elected officials from Pueblo have been eying a chance to legalize gaming there for some time.
As a result, Cripple Creek and Teller County leaders have continued their campaign against the measure. Their anti-video lottery terminal actions have received the support of such lobbying groups as the Colorado Casino Association, Action 22 and the Colorado Counties, Inc. The Teller County Commissioners also passed a resolution, staunchly opposing the VLT bill. And last week, the Teller County Republican Central Committee orchestrated an massive emergency e-mail blast, entitled “Teller County Needs Your Help,” requesting community leaders to contact Republican members of the House Agriculture, Livestock and National Resources Committee. It also asks party members to contact local state House representative Carole Murray, who represents Teller and Douglas counties.
The Agriculture, Livestock and National Resources Committee could serve as the first main test for the pro-VLT legislation. According to sources, the video lottery bill proponents are now trying to do a little 11th-hour deal-making in attempts to gain more sponsors for their legislation. That’s anther reason why county and city leaders have stressed the importance of keeping their guard up in monitoring this pending menace.
In a recent county commissioner candidates’ forum at the Woodland Park Public Library, the VLT issue generated much discussion, with all contenders for office expressing a desire to remain vigilant in opposing these types of competitive threats. Besides Pueblo, the other possible sites for the VLT pending explosion are Grand Junction and the Denver area. With these continual threats, White said the city may consider increasing its lobbying activities.