COVER STORY sports gambling

A view of Bennett Avenue in Cripple Creek on Aug. 15. (

Proponents for a ballot measure to let voters in Colorado's gambling towns up their betting limits is expected to move closer to the ballot Tuesday morning.

Local Choice Colorado campaign said it will turn in more than 200,000 signatures to qualify. To get the question on the ballot, supporters need 124,632 signatures from registered voters, but campaigns have to get an excess to account for double signatures, fake names and people who are registered to vote in Colorado.

Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek could choose to raise betting limits now capped at $100 and add new games such as Keno. Besides generating more tourism, the games would provide money for community colleges.

Initiative 257 doesn't change the gambling laws, but gives local residents the option to decide, not unlike Initiative 50 that passed in 2008 that allowed locals to decide on casino hours, additional games and raising the betting limit from $5 to $100.

Voters amended the state constitution in 1990 to allow the three historic mining towns to open casinos. The tax money has gone to community colleges, historic preservation and promoting Colorado's tourism.

The new money, if voters hike the bets or allow more games, would go to community colleges to help students get a degree or complete a certification program.

Local Choice Colorado contends the measure will allow Colorado to better compete. Of 23 states with legalized gambling, Colorado is one of only two states that limit bets. The other is Deadwood, South Dakota, where the limit is $1,000.

"In these unprecedented times of historic unemployment and economic devastation, this measure provides a potential life preserver for these towns and added revenue for struggling community colleges and the State of Colorado," the proponents said. "It does so by providing flexibility for local towns trying to move forward while preserving the traditional gaming and critical guidelines Colorado voters approved in the past."

The Colorado Legislative Council analyzed the impact of the proposal.

"This measure may increase gambling losses for Coloradans or others who choose to bet additional money on games," the report states. "Gamblers will have less money available to save or spend in other sectors of the economy and may incur new debts as a result."

However, "This measure may increase taxes paid by casinos if gaming is expanded or bet limits are increased. The amount by which taxes will increase depends on future decisions to be made by voters."

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