Forum speakers debate whether to gamble on Amendment 33 |

Forum speakers debate whether to gamble on Amendment 33

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Colorado now trails the Hoosier state in spending for tourism promotion, according to state Rep. Jack Taylor, and he urges voters to approve Amendment 33 so the Centennial state can start its climb back to the top.

“We were No. 3 and now we’re No. 22, behind Indiana,” Taylor said during the first part of Tuesday night’s election forum at Glenwood Springs City Hall.

Tom Stone, an Eagle County commissioner who opposes Amendment 33, put a different spin on the proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution.

“This would create a gambling mecca for one company,” Stone said, referring to Wembley, the British company that is asking Colorado residents to allow video slot machines in its racetracks and a handful of other Front Range locations.

The first part of the forum also focused on Referendum A and 4A, Amendment 32, the Colorado River Water Conservation District de-Brucing, the Carbondale lodging tax, and the proposed change in Glenwood Springs’ requirement for competitive bidding.

Stone drew one of the night’s few laughs, when he said Amendment 33 is “un-American … It’s British.”

Amendment 33 would allow video slot machines at five Colorado racetracks, and in licensed gambling establishments in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. A percentage of the proceeds would fund up to $25 million to promote Colorado tourism.

Taylor, from Steamboat Springs, said Colorado is losing $2.4 billion annually because it doesn’t have a funding mechanism for promoting tourism. He listed previous funding proposals that have failed in the past 11 years, and said he has “no confidence” Colorado’s’ General Assembly will ever come up with a funding mechanism.

“It’s come to be about the only thing we have left,” Taylor said of Amendment 33.

Stone called Amendment 33 “a bum deal” for Colorado, and said Wembley will be the primary financial beneficiary. “We’ll pay for the slot machines, and they will make 39 cents on every dollar, free and clear,” he said.

Stone concluded his remarks by saying Colorado doesn’t need a gambling image to help promote tourism. “There has to be a better way,” he said.

The forum also attempted to explore the complicated pros and cons of Colorado’s water storage issues in the span of 10 minutes. Stone urged residents to vote for Referendum A, while Chris Treese argued against it.

“It’s duplicative and unnecessary,” said Treese, a spokesperson for the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

Stone said the referendum will provide much-needed water storage, and pointed to last summer’s severe drought that some said was the worst in 300 years.

“It’s absolutely imperative we address this,” Stone said.

Referendum A would increase the state’s debt by $2 billion, and set up a mechanism for building water projects, starting in 2005.

Residential and commercial property tax assessments are addressed in Amendment 32, which would lock residential assessment rates at 8 percent assessment. There were no representatives for either side at the forum.

Referendum 4A would allow the Colorado River Water Conservation District to de-Bruce, and lock its property tax levy at 0.25 mills. Treese spoke for the referendum, and there were no opponents.

Carbondale Chamber of Commerce Director Randi Lowenthal briefed the forum on her town’s proposed 2 percent lodging tax. The tax would raise approximately $80,000 per year for tourism promotion and allow for the upgrading of the chamber’s visitor center at Highway 133 and Weant.

Mayor Don Vanderhoof explained the Glenwood measure, which would raise the minimum requirement for competitive bidding to $25,000 from $5,000.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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