DENVER (CBS4) – Video lottery could be coming to Colorado and some lawmakers say that could create jobs in the state.
It’s not the first time lawmakers have tried similar ideas — a number of bills have all failed. But this latest bill has bipartisan backing.
It’s expected to generate a windfall — $35-million for state parks, tourism and higher education. But supporters say it could also save the horse racing industry in Colorado.
The only horse track left in Colorado is Arapahoe Park in Aurora.
“They’ve lost a lot of the gambling crowd to Black Hawk and Central City,” said Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose.
Coram is a horse racer turned state lawmaker. He’s floating the bill that would allow licensed horse track owners to operate video lottery terminals.
“(It) certainly was not our intention to cannibalize the casinos,” Coram said.
The bill limits the lottery facilities to the Western Slope, 100 miles from any existing casino. He says it’ll create jobs, but it’s also creating controversy.
“It’s probably been the greatest jobs bill around already because of the amount of lobbyists that have been hired,” Coram said.
“What they’re doing is asking for exclusive permission to expand gaming and bypassing the voters,” Colorado Gaming Association spokesperson Katy Atkinson said.
The Colorado Gaming Association is one of several groups fighting the bill. Atkinson says the bill is an attempt to bypass the Constitution by calling it a lottery instead of gambling.
“It’s pretty clear what the people of Colorado want. The last time the people were asked if they want video lottery terminals or if they want to expand gaming beyond where it’s legal right now, 81 percent said, ‘no.’ I think that’s pretty overwhelming,” Atkinson said.
But Coram is betting his bill, which has bipartisan support, will fare better.
“I never entered a race I didn’t think I could win, and I’ve never put a bill out I didn’t think could pass,” Coram said.
In addition to Mile High Racing, which operates Arapahoe Park, Coram says a couple out-of-state horse track owners are also interested in coming to Colorado if the bill passes. He says the first lottery facility would likely open in Grand Junction at the Old Uranium Downs racetrack.
The bill will get its first hearing before a House committee on Wednesday.