Gaming Expansion on the Ballot in Colorado and Rhode Island

twin riverGaming expansion is on the ballot in several states this week, both overtly and covertly.

The most far-reaching is occurring the Northeast where Massachusetts is fighting a repeal of its 2011 casino expansion law.

Further south, Florida’s governor race will have a significant impact on how the Sunshine State’s gambling future plays out.

And in Colorado and Rhode Island voters will have to decide on expanding gaming options in their respective states when they cast their ballots tomorrow.

Colorado Amendment 68

A ballot initiative in Colorado (Amendment 68) is seeking to amend the state’s constitution in order to expand gambling options at the Arapahoe Park Racetrack in Aurora. The ballot measure would also permit casino expansion at two other yet to be built racetracks in Mesa county and Pueblo county after the facilities operate as a racetrack for a five year period.

In July, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler approved Amendment 68 for the November ballot, after over 130,00 signatures were submitted – a sample indicated over 100,000 would be validated. In order for the initiative to appear on the November ballot, Colorado law requires “Citizen Initiatives” to gather 86,501 signatures.

If Amendment 68 is passed, Arapahoe Park would be allowed to add 2,500 slot machines and 65 gambling tables. The other locations in Mesa and Pueblo counties would be allowed to offer a similar number of slot machines and table games following their five year blackout period.

The initiative calls for thirty-four percent of revenue from slots and table games to go toward K-12 education funding. Supporters of Amendment 68 claim this amount could reach $114 million annually.

Opponents of Amendment 68 claim the new casinos would hurt the three current casinos in Colorado; Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek, which only recently expanded their gaming options (and saw their hours of operations and betting limits increased) thanks to a ballot initiative back in 2009 that allowed for the addition of Craps and Roulette games to be added to the casinos’ slots and card games.

A September USA Today/Suffolk University poll indicated support for the imitative was at 33% while opposition was at 44%. Unfortunately, this is the most recent poll listing Amendment 68.

Rhode Island

Interestingly, the main backer of the amendment in Colorado is Twin Rivers Casino out of Rhode Island, which owns the Araphoe Park Racetrack.

Formerly a slots casino, Rhode Island voters approved a ballot referendum in 2012 that allowed Twin Rivers to add table games, which the casino did earlier this year. During the same election the electorate voted down a similar measure (more on this below) that would have added table games to the Newport Grand Casino.

Despite the loss in 2012, the expansion question at Newport Grand is back on the table in 2014 (Question 1), along with a separate but connected measure (Question 2) that would allow/disallow the relocation of Newport Grand without a voter referendum.

To pass, Question 1 and Question 2 are required to have a majority of statewide votes and in Newport proper. In 2012 the addition of table games at Newport Grand measure easily passed statewide (by a 2-1 margin) but was voted down by Newport residents.


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