By Jamie Leary
DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado lawmakers have cleared a hurdle towards revising a law that would put an end to cash-paying arcades across the state. On Thursday, the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee unanimously voted to pass HB18-1234.
“We wanna make it very clear that internet sweepstakes cafes with games that look exactly like casino games are in fact illegal.” Said Bill Sponsor and state Representative KC Becker. “They don’t have the same regulatory burden as the casinos do. They don’t have to show the same standards of conduct and business practices. There aren’t regular inspections, they’re taxed differently, they aren’t regulated by the gaming commission.”
Becker’s district includes Black Hawk and Central City, two prominent communities which have specific gambling regulations. Becker says the games inside of the adult arcades that have been popping up, are nothing more than slot machines.
“Hey there’s nothing wrong with a representative representing the best interest of her district but beyond that, I do think that these are predatory and I do think they violate the constitution.”
Governor John Hickenlooper signed legislation in 2015 which outlawed illegal gaming but made certain exemptions. Exemptions that allowed Tammy Garamova and her husband to open a skill game arcade that same year. Her family is in the process of opening its fourth store but has hit roadblocks along the way.
“We have been raided, had all of our equipment in 2 of our stores seized; we have not seen our equipment back and have not been charged with any crimes.” Said Garamova.
On Thursday Garamova along with supporters moved one of her arcade games into the middle of the Capitol and let people play for free. The $15000 zombie shooting game is one of their smallest and cheapest models.
“We want our legislators to see it get their hands on it feel it, see the joystick the whole thing and know that what they’re playing is not a slot machine where you’re hitting a button and waiting to see whether or not you’ve won a prize.” Said Garamova
Garamova hoped to show people that it was a game of skill versus gambling with a slot machine, a game of chance. Garamova says defining her machine isn’t the main concern.
“Our main concern is that we’re gonna keep having our equipment seized.” She said. “They’ve said that its contraband, they’ve compared it to heroin and I’ve been told that we will never get it back whether or not we’re ever charged with a crime or not.” Said Garamova.
Concerns over the seizure of equipment have been mounting but when addressed Thursday, took a back seat.
“I think that’s a fair issue but its a separate issue. When people are knowingly opening a business that they know they could get shut down, they’ve been given fair warning, they’ve seen other ones get shut down, that is a risk they are taking and ya know they are going into this any way that the reward is going to be greater than the risk.” Said Becker.
Garamova is adamant her games are not slot machines but testified Thursday that some are made by slot machine manufacturers. HB18-1234 has a long way to go but if it passed, it would put Garamova out of business.
“We’re gonna do our best to mobilize and get our voices out there because we are in the right. If we weren’t in the right they wouldn’t be running a bill today to make what is already legal, illegal.” She continued, “I hope that they see that this is big business trying to squash small business.”
“We received an opinion from the attorney general that it would help enforcement if we could clarify statute.” Said Becker. “People of Colorado have been clear that they don’t want mini casinos sprouting up all over the state.”
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.