KUSA– Colorado voters will decide whether to allow a casino in the Denver Metro Area when they decide on Amendment 68.
The ballot question has two groups sitting at the table, betting they can sway your vote: Colorado’s existing casinos in the mountains, and a horse track owned by another gambling company that wants to join the club.
The “yes” campaign has four ads running on TV in the Denver area. In this Truth Test, we’ll examine the important claims in all of them.
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CLAIM: “The owners of Arapahoe race track, where wagering already exists, are asking voters to permit limited gaming at the track. In exchange, Arapahoe will pay 34 percent of its revenue to a special K-12 education fund.” Existing casinos only pay 17 percent.
These claims are all true because the owners of the Arapahoe Park racetrack wrote Amendment 68 to include a higher tax on themselves.
It’s meant to be a selling point of their proposal.
CLAIM: “Voting ‘yes’ permits expanded gaming at no more than three horse racetracks that already have wagering.”
Amendment 68 would add a provision to the state constitutionthat allows one casino in Mesa County and one in Pueblo County, in addition to the one in Arapahoe County.
What they proponents are not telling you is that the Arapahoe race track is the only one of the three that actually exists today.
The amendment places serious barriers in the way of opening the other two horse track casinos.
To do so, you’d have to open a horse racetrack, run it for five years without a casino, and then pay a $25-million startup fee to the state to add slots and table games.
That’s the same startup fee the Arapahoe racetrack owners would pay to the state.
CLAIM: “[Amendment] 68 would provide more than $114 million every year to K-12 schools.”
The $114 million figure is the official estimate of how much tax the Arapahoe casino would pay.
But the ads don’t tell you that estimate figures more than half of the business at the Arapahoe casino would be cannibalized from the existing casinos in the mountains.
That means the existing casinos will bring in less tax money, hurting other government programs.
When you factor out the lost tax revenue, Amendment 68 is forecast to bring in only $82 million in new taxes in the first full year.
CLAIM: “The money will be distributed to every school district to be used as they determine on a per student basis.” And “it’s a huge investment in our kids.”
VERDICT: Extra context useful
Using the new tax figure we just explained, the taxes break down to about $95 of new money per student in the state.
It’s about a 1 percent increase in per pupil funding.
Another way to picture it is $47,500 for a school with 500 students, which could be enough money to hire an extra staff member.
You can decide if that looks huge to you.
CLAIM: “Big out of state gambling companies that own Colorado’s existing casinos want to protect their current monopoly and low tax rates. So they’re spending millions opposing Amendment 68.”
VERDICT: True, but the same argument applies to both sides
Out-of-state companies are spending millions in this race, but on both sides of it.
While many existing casinos in the state have parent companies elsewhere, so does the Arapahoe Park racetrack.
The proponents are spending millions hoping to benefit out-of-state business interests.
BOTTOM LINE: These ads gloss over some of the details in order to make Amendment 68 sound like it benefits more than one company and raises more money than is actually the case.
Comment: I will vote against A68
Integrity in Leadership