Racetrack Slots Yanked From The Table

by Rick Langenberg:




Cripple Creek casino operators and local business leaders won a temporary battle last week in their bid to keep video slots from lighting up at prime horse tracks in Colorado. Facing a probable defeat, proponents of House Bill 1280, the measure that would legalize video slots, referred to as video lottery terminals (VLTs), at certain horse tracks without a statewide vote, pulled their legislation from consideration. Last week, the measure faced a do or die vote by the state House Finance Committee. But local leaders in Cripple Creek still are taking a low-key position and aren’t preparing for any victory laps around the state Capitol. “I’m quite sure it will be back,” said City Administrator Ray White, who believes the VLT legislative fight is still not over for the 2012 session, which ends in about a month. White briefed the city council last week and advised them of several key committee tallies that could determine the fate of the legislation that has generated much angst among Colorado casino owners and elected leaders in Teller.

According to reports White received from the city’s legislative team, the measure sparked much debate at the committee hearing. The main sticking point is the fact that the bill would not require any type of state vote regarding the legalizing of slots at certain horse tracks. It merely would require the okay of residents or elected leaders in the areas where the racetracks are located, and it would fall under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Lottery Commission instead of the state gaming commission. This has raised many constitutional concerns in the gaming communities. In order to have legal games of chance, gaming proponents in Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk had to get the majority of Colorado voters to approve their ballot initiative at a regular election. But even if the pro-VLT bill moves forward, it has been reduced in scope.

Originally, the pro-VLT measure could have legalized nearly 10,000 slots at three venues, including a racetrack in Pueblo. This would have had a devastating impact on the Cripple Creek gaming community, according to most insiders. Under the new amendments, only one horse track would be permitted, and that would be located in the Grand Junction area. Still, White voiced much concern about the VLT impact at last week’s council session. By comparison, Cripple Creek officials have taken a much more cautious approach than Teller County leaders. At a recent county meeting, Commissioner Dave Paul indicated that the VLT bill is practically dead. “It is over when it is over,” said White, who said Cripple Creek leaders are refraining from speculating on the outcome of this bill. Even if the measure dies this year, they say the legislation is bound to make another comeback next year.