Casinos counter ballot proposals by horse track

The state’s only horse racing track isn’t the only group proposing ballot measures for voters to consider this fall.

Last month, the owners of Arapahoe Park horse racing track in Aurora filed six proposed ballot measures calling on Colorado voters to allow it to have up to 2.500 slot machines or video lottery terminals at its horse racing track in Arapahoe County or where it offers parimutuel betting of those races in Mesa and Pueblo counties.

To counter that, the casino industry has proposed a few measures of its own, all of which are designed to block the horse track’s proposal to expand casino-style gambling in the state.

Those Arapahoe Park proposals would only allow itself to have gambling, and don’t call for separate local votes in those counties to allow it.

As a result, the casino industry is backing eight proposals, four of which would require a local vote if horse track gambling is approved statewide. The other four would bar any single company from holding a monopoly in any community for such gambling.

“If Arapahoe Park were to get a casino license and have a five-year monopoly on a casino, obviously that eliminates the equal playing field that our industry has enjoyed for over 22 years,” said Lois Rice, executive director of the Colorado Gaming Association. “Any gambling expansion should have to follow the same rules that we had to follow, and that requires not just a state, but a local vote. Those citizens in those counties should be able to make the decision if they want a large gaming facility in their communities.”

Monica McCafferty, spokeswoman for the horse track measures, said her group is monitoring the casino’s proposals, but declined to comment on them specifically.

She said her group, Coloradans for Better Schools, is going ahead with the six proposals it has submitted to the Colorado Titling Board, which reviews citizens’ initiatives, and plans to decide later which one it will take to the fall ballot.

Each of the other measures are essentially identical, and would provide 34 percent to 37 percent of proceeds to go toward funding public schools.

The measures also would provide for one-time and annual money going to the counties that have the new casinos, though two of the track’s newest proposals back away from a $10 million one-time payment and 2 percent annual impact fee to those local communities.

Instead, the measures call for “negotiating” impact fees with the local communities.


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