HB09-1152 would allow Colorado’s five Class A horse tracks (fair tracks in Grand Junction, Durango, Trinidad, Holly and Brush) and one Class B horse track (Arapahoe Park) and their affiliated Off Track Betting (OTB) facilities to have “instant racing machines,” the equivalent of slot machines.
The bill also allows “racing associations, fairs, or officially recognized horsemen’s organizations” to form “legal affiliations in order to further the purposes” of the bill. This murky language could mean the creation of even more racetrack casinos.
The machines authorized by HB09-1152 are not games of skill and meet Colorado’s Constitutional definition of a ‘slot machine.’
When a similar bill was introduced in 2004, the Rocky Mountain News noted, “…Instant Racing is a slot machine without the handle.” (4-21-04)
HB09-1152 ignores the Constitutional requirement for voter approval of any expansion of gaming beyond the three mountain communities where it is currently authorized.
Colorado voters have said ‘no’ to expanding gaming seven different times.
In 2003, 81 percent of Colorado voters said ‘no’ to racetrack casinos.
HB09-1152’s fiscal note estimates that as many as 2,600 of the equivalent of slot machines could be installed at Colorado tracks and OTB facilities.
The only Class B horse track currently operating in Colorado is located in Arapahoe County, where the county commissioners, sheriff and local fire protection district all oppose passage of HB09-1152.
Click hereto read the bill. (pdf file opens in new window)
Click here to read the State and Local Fiscal Impact of HB09-1152, provided by the Colorado Legislative Council Staff. (pdf file opens in new window)
Editorial: An end run around the state constitution
February 18, 2009
Colorado's horse track owners were struggling before the recession took hold. But rather than ask voters to expand their operations, as the state constitution requires, they want the legislature to improve their odds of survival.
House Bill 1152, scheduled for a committee vote today, would bring "racinos" - video betting terminals - to not just tracks and off-track betting parlors but potentially many more locations statewide.
The bill would largely mirror Amendment 33, rejected by 81 percent of voters in 2003, and a follow-up legislative measure in 2004 that also failed. Both sought to bring what the bill calls "historical horse racing" to race tracks.
This doesn't mean horses that were put out to stud will don the racing silks again. No, HB 1152 would allow a specific type of betting station at tracks that is barely distinguishable from slot machines. And because the Colorado Constitution requires voters to approve any expansion of gambling, we see this as an end run around voters and the constitution.
HB 1152 would allow horse and dog tracks and their affiliated off-track betting locations (for starters) to install Instant Racing machines. These devices have a video library that plays reruns from thousands of races.
Bettors wager on those previously run races without knowing the odds; players place their bets and then push a button, where numbers assigned to races spin on a display that looks like a video slot machine. Wagers go into a pool and are paid out according to pari-mutuel standards.
Attorney Mark Grueskin, who represents the Colorado Gaming Association and was a principal author of last fall's Amendment 50, says Instant Racing machines satisfy the six criteria defining slot machines in the state constitution. They're mechanical; they accept money; they're operated by the person providing the money; they offer rewards redeemable in cash; the payment is based on the luck or skill of the player; and payment is automatic.
Making matters worse, a provision in the bill allows "racing associations, fairs, or officially recognized horsemen's organizations [to] form one or more partnerships, joint ventures, or other legal affiliations in order to further" its purposes.
This suggests that county or state fairs could set up their own betting areas, with few limits. The fiscal note attached to HB 1152 envisions 2,640 Instant Racing machines statewide just at existing betting locations. That's more than one and one-half times the number of slot machines now operating in the three casino towns.
HB 1152 would dramatically expand gambling without voter approval.
The tracks may need new gaming alternatives to stay in business. But they need to play by the rules, and that means asking voters to allow more gambling. Lawmakers should prevent HB 1152 from getting out of the gate.
Instant racing viewed as slots
May 5, 2006
By Ilene Olson
CHEYENNE - The Wyoming Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a Laramie County District Court decision that instant-racing machines are illegal in the state.
Wyoming Downs filed a lawsuit challenging Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank's decision that the machines are illegal. Following that decision in 2004, machines at Wyoming Downs in Evanston and Off Track Betting in Cheyenne were unplugged.
The instant-race machines allow gamblers to bet on races that already have taken places and some simultaneously being run around the world.
The Wyoming Pari-Mutuel Commission changed its rules to allow the installation of terminals, first in Evanston, and later at off-track betting outlets here and in Rock Springs in 2003.
All 80 machines are owned by Wyoming Downs and were endorsed by the commission.
Wyoming Downs has argued that because the terminals use information from actual races, the machines should be legal.
Attorneys for the state have said the machines operate much like e-bingo, which is not allowed in Wyoming, and therefore are illegal.
Laramie County District Judge Edward Grant sided with the state in July of last year, after which Wyoming Downs appealed to the Supreme Court.
In Thursday's decision, Chief Justice William Hill wrote: "We agree with the district court's tacit conclusion that we are not dealing with a new technology here, we are dealing with a slot machine that attempts to mimic traditional pari-mutuel wagering. Although it may be a good try, we are not so easily beguiled."
Hill noted that Wyoming Downs contended the matter was clarified by the 2005 Legislature when it passed a bill that would have authorized the use of instant racing in Wyoming. But Gov. Dave Freudenthal vetoed the bill, and the Legislature failed to override it.
"Our conclusion, based on simple reason and logic, is that such a circumstance has no relevance to our decision today," Hill wrote.
His conclusion: "We affirm the district court's order in all respects."
Crank said he is pleased by the court's decision.
"That's what we had said all along, that we thought those machines were illegal gaming devices," he said.
Lara Azar, Freudenthal's press secretary, said the governor also is pleased.
But Tony Spear, manager of Off Track Betting on Nationway, said he disagreed with the decision.
"I think this was legal under the pari-mutuel rules system," he said. "The state needs to look at gambling as a whole. Our bill went through the Legislature last year and passed both houses. Then the governor vetoed it. I know there's a want out there."
Because the state does not allow instant racing machines, "a lot more people are betting online," Spear said. "There the state doesn't get a penny of it. They need to recognize the fact that people who enjoy this type of entertainment are going to do it whether they legalize it or not."
EDITORIAL: Another bad bet: Latest plan to expand gambling in Ohio is assault on voters' clear choice.
May 4, 2007
The gambling lobby's latest gambit to foist the equivalent of slot machines on the state is more than a tiresome nuisance to Ohio voters, who have repeatedly demonstrated their disapproval at the polls.
This time, it's an affront to the voters' clear wishes.
By proposing glorified slot machines that let bettors wager on past horse races, backers claim they're just asking for more pari-mutuel wagering, which already is legal in Ohio. By that transparent dodge, they hope to expand gambling without a vote of the people.
Barely five months after voters soundly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have authorized an absurd 31,500 slot machines at nine locations around the state, making millions for the owners, racetrack owner Charles J. Ruma and the other gambling proponents are back.
Instead of pushing one-armed bandits, they're pushing machines that let gamblers watch brief video clips of unidentified past races after guessing which horse will win.
When the "race" is over and the spinning reels stop, money will pour out if the player picked the right horse.
"Instant racing" advocates try to make a distinction between the pure-chance wagering of traditional slot machines and the pari-mutuel betting involved in horse races, which presumably requires some knowledge of racing on the bettor's part.
That's ludicrous, given the scraps of information the so-called instant racing machines give players to work with.
It doesn't matter, anyway.
More gambling is wrong for Ohio, just as it's wrong for West Virginia, where calls to a state-sponsored hotline for problem gambling nearly doubled between 2003 and 2005, and for Indiana, where a study sponsored by lawmakers found that casinos have sparked compulsive gambling by more than 12,000 residents.
The danger to Ohio could be even greater than it appears. The Ohio Roundtable, a conservative policy group that has steadfastly opposed attempts to ratchet up gambling in the state, contends that allowing what are essentially video slot machines would push Ohio into the category of states that allow the most-intense types of gambling.
That would open the door to Indian tribes and other would-be casino operators who have been trying for years to maneuver their way past voters.
Most of all, lawmakers are wrong even to consider opening Ohio to the problems of expanded gambling without a vote of the people, particularly after 57 percent of those people voted against it less than six months ago, despite a deceptive pro-gambling campaign bankrolled by more than $20 million.
Lawmakers who want to serve Ohioans and not the gambling lobby should focus on building Ohio's economy with sensible tax, education and development policies that generate prosperity for all.
Copyright (c) 2007, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
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