Amendment 68: Operation Casino

By Sonia Amodeo

This fall, residents will decide on the community makeup of Arapahoe County by voting on Amendment 68.  The Colorado Horse Racetrack Limited Gaming Proceeds for K-12 Education Amendment is on the ballot for the November 2014 elections.

The passing of this amendment would add a section to Amendment XVIII of Colorado’s Constitution, which would allow a casino to be built on the old racetrack in Arapahoe County.

The amendment would allow casino gambling in Arapahoe County, with 34 percent of the revenues going to K-12 education.

Mesa and Pueblo Counties would also fall into the amended counties.

The casino would belong to a Rhode Island company, Twin River Casinos.

Some education organizations support this amendment.  Included in these are Coloradans for Better Schools.

More than $100 million would go to Colorado K-12 schools per year.  The funding would be to all school districts, including the Charter School Institute, on a per pupil basis.

In addition, Colorado residents would be protected from increased taxes or cut funding from other programs.

However, many education organizations oppose Amendment 68, such as Aurora Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, and Colorado PTA.

Opposers of Amendment 68 include many newspapers such as The Denver Post, The Gazette of Colorado Springs, and The Durango Herald.

The issue does not seem to reflect a partisan bias between Democrats and Republicans— both Governor John Hickenlooper and candidate Bob Beauprez openly oppose the amendment.

The Denver Herald-Dispatch describes it as, “a transparent attempt to use Colorado’s initiative process to benefit a single out-of-state company, and this statement has been used in the Vote No on 68 PAC’s website and issue commercials.

Rhode Island based Twin River Casino owns Arapahoe Park, and No On 68 reasons that this amendment will benefit them more than Colorado education.  Twin River Casino is in financial debt, and they don’t want Colorado’s money to go to that casino.

No on 68 discusses the writing of the Amendment as a problem.  They cite it as ambiguous, and that the casino must be built on a race track.  As a result Pueblo and Mesa Counties would not benefit whatsoever from the abilities to build casinos because of their lack of money to produce a racetrack.

And the writing also speaks to a deeper issue for its opponents— the power of the local vote.  Its passing would mean that the local voice was ignored due to a state-wide ballot, with an imposed casino changing the makeup of the residential community.  As it is now, the Constitution states that local communities would have a second exclusive vote on a subject from a state-wide ballot; however, the amendment’s text writes that second vote out of the Constitution.

In effect, this amendment ignores the local community by possibly forcing a casino on them through a state-wide ballot.

“The local voters in Arapahoe County and Aurora will not get a chance to weigh in on whether they want this in their backyard or not.  We are deeply opposed to that,” says Michele Ames, spokeswoman for No On 68.

No On 68 details hidden costs if the amendment is passed, such as $63 million in road improvements, and $800,000/year to regulate the casino.

The Denver Post has said, “Amendment 68 should be crushed in the same way previous efforts have gone down in flames.”

Though Amendment 68 seems like an attempt to solve Colorado’s public school funding challenges, a majority of local organizations do not believe it is a serious or legitimate attempt to do so.

The controversial issue will be decided upon this November.

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