Group bets on gambling in De Beque
A group of De Beque residents hopes gambling can resuscitate the Western Slope economy.
The De Beque Wild Horse Gaming Committee is seeking an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would add De Beque to the list of towns in the state where slot machines, blackjack and poker are allowed. Gaming is currently limited in the state to Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.
Committee co-chairman Ryan Rose, a De Beque Fire Protection District employee, said the committee has 14 members from various backgrounds who all live in De Beque. He said the group formed because each member believes gaming could help improve the economy in De Beque, Mesa County and possibly the Western Slope in general.
“De Beque is a dying town,” Rose said. “We relied on oil and gas for so long and it’s going downhill bad. We wanted to think of ways to boost up De Beque and the whole county.”
The group has already gotten unanimous approval from De Beque Town Board members for a resolution supporting gaming in De Beque. Now they’re focused on legislative approval.
Sen. Steve King and Rep. Ray Scott, both Grand Junction Republicans, are researching the possibility of carrying a concurrent resolution that would place a question on the Nov. 4 ballot asking voters statewide to permit De Beque to become the fourth Colorado town to allow gaming. Scott said the resolution would need a two-thirds majority of votes in the Senate and then the House in order to make it to the ballot. He said the resolution likely will be introduced next month.
“Right now it’s like anything else over here, there’s a 50-50 chance” it will pass, he said, adding the town also has the option to petition onto the ballot if legislative efforts fail.
King said the Western Slope economy is behind the Front Range in terms of recovery from the economic downturn and he appreciates De Beque’s willingness to “think outside the box” on economic ventures. However, he expects pushback from current gaming towns and “an uphill battle” getting residents across Colorado to vote for such a measure. Parachute, for example, tried to add gaming in 1992 but the idea was voted down 72 percent to 28 percent.
“Already-organized gambling in Colorado does not want to see De Beque cut into their market share ... I think they will mount an enthusiastic, negative response to De Beque’s idea to become a gambling community,” King said.
The state Constitution requires gaming facilities to give up to 40 percent of money gathered from customers’ wagers, minus money paid out to winners, to the state’s limited gaming fund. After administrative expenses are paid, 12 percent of the fund balance goes to the counties where gaming is allowed, half goes to the state general fund, 28 percent goes to the state historical fund, and 10 percent goes to the trio of towns that have gaming.
Rose said response from Cripple Creek so far has been positive but he has heard Black Hawk is not pleased about De Beque’s plans. The committee has retained an attorney and plans to host fundraisers to build a nest egg for lobbying to combat negative publicity. Anyone who wants to donate to the group can contact them through their Facebook page (search “DeBeque Wildhorse Gaming”), which also has a link to a survey asking people their opinions on the possibility of gaming in De Beque.
Rose said the committee hopes to court businesses to open one or more casinos in the town. The goal, he said, is to model gaming after other Colorado gambling towns, not build something similar to Las Vegas.