by Rick Langenberg:
Give Gilpin County officials credit for ingenuity and creativity in trying to raid the gaming funds of Teller County and Cripple Creek.
Rebuffed continuously in their efforts to convince lawmakers, gaming officials and Colorado judges in the argument that Gilpin and Black Hawk deserve more of the gambling revenue tax pie, head Gilpin administrators are now eying a pot of $6 million or so of state-related gaming impact funds. These monies, handed out by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, go to entities that bear the brunt of gambling-related impacts. In the past, Teller and a variety of non-profits have fared well in grabbing a hefty portion of these monies that help foot the bills for the Teller jail, sheriff patrols, roads, services in Victor and Woodland Park, local fire departments, the Aspen Mine Center and more.
Now, Gilpin wants to enter the race, and moreover, is requesting that these funds be distributed on a percentage basis, similar to the manner that regular gambling tax monies are dispersed.
If that occurs, Gilpin, which houses the biggest and most elaborate casinos, will emerge as a big winner, while Teller may find itself in the funding impact cellar. Based on the current tax revenue allotments established by the state gambling law, Gilpin County, home to Central City and Black Hawk, receives about 80 percent of the money that goes to the three gaming towns and two counties.
In the past, Teller and Jefferson counties have succeeded in obtaining most of impact funds allotted through DOLA. “They are eligible to try to apply for these monies,” said Teller County Administrator Sheryl Decker, in referring to Gilpin County. “They haven’t tried in the past.”
But according to Decker, Gilpin is now seeking to add a percentage allotment to the gaming impact equation. That has never been done before. Utilizing a rating system, the allocation of monies is usually decided by an advisory board that reviews a bevy of requests from communities and entities located near the three gambling towns. The final call on this allotment change bid would be made by DOLA, according to Decker. “We are once again trying to defend our gaming revenue,” added Decker, who estimates that $1.7 million in impact funds for Teller and adjoining entities is at stake.
The latest Gilpin County plan was met last week by jeers and cynical quips from the Teller County Commissioners, who classified the attempt as another bid to steal their gambling tax money. Relations between the two entities have been strained for several years.
In the last year, the political fireworks ignited further as Cripple Creek mulled a legislative plan to request an overview of how historic preservation monies could be spent. This amounted to a definite assault against Black Hawk, which has gained a reputation for spending historic funds in a questionable manner, such as for renovating the homes of elected leaders or for infrastructure. Gilpin, meanwhile, toyed again with its counter-legislative plan to change the way gambling monies were distributed through a system that would cost Teller and Cripple Creek an estimated $2.5 million a year.
Neither of these efforts made it to the legislative floor in 2014.
On the upside, the commissioners reported last week that none of the legislative bids for additional gambling expansions, such as for video lottery terminals and slots at race tracks and limited gambling in other towns, moved forward. “We are glad the legislative session is over,” said Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder. “They (state legislators) can’t pass any more laws. We got through it relatively unscathed.”