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Amendment 33 gambling question is good for Colorado

State Sen. Jack Taylor

The misinformation, inaccuracies and hypocrisies about the Amendment 33 ballot question Nov. 4 have gotten out of hand and I have decided it is time to set the record straight.

My interest in and strong support of Amendment 33 is related to tourism, which plays a vital role in Colorado’s overall economy.

Since the voters rejected the continuance of the tourism sales tax in 1992 that funded statewide marketing at about $12-$13 million a year, Colorado has slipped from third place to 22nd place as the destination of choice for tourists.

The Longwoods International tourism consulting firm also says that since 1992, Colorado’s economy is losing $2.4 billion annually of market share that we could have captured had we continued to promote Colorado with a reliable source of funding.

The Legislature has proven repeatedly its unwillingness to adequately and consistently fund tourism in the annual budgeting process. At best, the annual appropriation is typically a pittance and is done one year at a time so the Colorado Tourism Office and Tourism Board cannot effectively plan ahead and make intelligent and effective marketing decisions.

Colorado needs to establish a new and reliable nontax source of revenue to fund tourism promotion to give our economy a much-needed shot in the arm.

Colorado has legislatively and commercially truly exhausted all logical funding methods – except one.

Amendment 33 will establish that reliable, annual source of funding by voter authorization to allow video lottery terminals (VLTs) to be placed only in existing gaming establishments.

This means VLTs cannot be placed in any other location – such as convenience stores, businesses and bars in your hometown – without a vote of the people.

The passage of Amendment 33 clearly closes that door. There will not be mega casinos all up and down the Interstate 25 corridor as advertised by the opposition.

The existing gaming establishments are identified by location on page 7 of the ballot analysis “Blue Book,” which has been sent to every household in the state with a registered voter. Copies are available at county clerk offices.

The casino opposition is basically saying, “Our casino gambling is OK, but this other gambling in existing gaming establishments is not OK.”

Under Amendment 33 casinos can install VLTs, but have chosen not to do so. Instead they have chosen to fight Amendment 33 and the racetracks.

According to an article in the Oct. 15 Rocky Mountain News, a gaming corporation which owns casinos in Black Hawk and Cripple Creek is one of the leaders in opposition to Amendment 33.

What makes it interesting is it also owns and operates a harness-racing track in Florida where it is working to introduce VLTs on a statewide vote in that state in 2004.

Maybe the casino opposition in Colorado has something to do with the fact all devices used in Colorado casinos on average typically only pay about 14 cents per net dollar to the state, while Amendment 33’s program will pay 61 cents per net dollar to the state.

Or is it the gambling monopoly it enjoys in Colorado? By the way, some of Colorado’s racetracks have been in existence since the late 1940s – long before casinos.

The casino opposition likes to single out Wembley USA as an English company, taking billions of dollars out of Colorado and the United States. Using Table 2 on page 11 of the Blue Book, the middle column shows $58.7 million as “Commission to Racetrack Owners.”

The five tracks currently collectively employ between 500 and 600 people, and those employees pay income tax, sales tax, property tax, etc.

When Amendment 33 passes it will create more jobs. And the companies, including Wembley, will pay state and federal income taxes, commercial property taxes, have operating expenses etc., that come out of the $58.7 million which is split between the five tracks.

A normal profit margin is 10 to 15 percent. Where are the “billions” of profit the opposition talks about making, let alone taking out of this country?

Even if it all went to Wembley as profit with no expenses subtracted, it would take 17 years of $58.7 million to make one billion. Let’s get real. Incidentally, not all of Colorado’s casinos are owned wholly by domestic companies.

So, how do we get a substantial shot in the arm from Amendment 33 for Colorado’s economy?

The numbers in Table 2 on page 11 of the Blue Book come from research done in a conservative manner by the Legislative Council staff, and are based on similar activities in other states where VLTs are used.

Using 500 VLTs in each of the five tracks (and no casinos), there will be $78.2 million of “state revenue available for distribution.”

In addition, there will be substantial amounts of this new money for local parks and recreations, state parks, Great Outdoors Colorado and K-12 education capital construction.

Up to $25 million would be available in the first full year of operation (and each subsequent 15 years) to provide the reliable, nontax, new revenue source for tourism promotion.

Now for the multiplier. Based on Longwoods International research data, every dollar spent promoting tourism returns conservatively $50 to our economy.

Using the $50 to $1 “return on investment” times the $25 million on the tourism promotion line equals a $1.25 billion annual boost to Colorado’s economy without raising taxes.

The Colorado Lottery Commission – which has so effectively helped Colorado over the last 20 years – will oversee, manage and enforce the entire VLT program including setting the age limit, bet limits and hours of operation using only funds from the VLT program.

No public tax dollars will be used. The program ends in 15 years.

Tourism is good for Colorado. Amendment 33 is good for tourism and Colorado’s economy. Amendment 33 is good for Colorado.

State Sen. Jack Taylor

represents Senate District 8. He is from Steamboat Springs.

Summit County is in Senate

District 16, represented by Joan Fitz-Gerald.


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