By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Following a record-breaking month in July that saw Colorado casinos and their laxer gaming rules rake in $76.2 million, revenues for the three gaming towns last month dropped $5.5 million from that pinnacle.
The Adjusted Gross Proceeds (AGP) — a term describing the revenue casinos make after paying out winnings to gaming patrons — totaled $69.7 million in August. And while that AGP is up modestly over August 2008, Black Hawk is largely responsible for driving that increase. Proceeds in Cripple Creek and Central City were actually below their August 2008 levels last month.
“As expected, the enthusiasm surrounding the advent of new games, higher bet limits and longer hours is softening, but the gaming industry in Colorado continues to perform better than the industry in most other states,” said a statement from Colorado Gaming Association President Michael Smith.
Amendment 50 allows casinos to stay open 24 hours, raise the maximum bet from $5 to $100, and allow craps and roulette. The measure went into effect at 12:01 a.m. on July 2 this past summer.
The Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehabilitation (CeDAR) at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora has yet to receive the increase in gambling addiction-related phone calls they expected to get after the laxer gaming rules went into effect. But CeDAR executive director Franklin Lisnow doesn’t see that as a good sign. He thinks the lack of calls is probably because people don’t realize they have a gambling problem and need to get help.
“Addiction is stooped in denial,” he said. “By raising the stakes and increasing the hours, more people think they can gamble their way out of a hole. Realizing you have an addiction usually comes after that doesn’t work.”
More than 55-percent of Colorado voters backed Amendment 50 last November. The measure allowed residents of Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek to vote on whether they wanted to change the gambling rules in their town. All three cities overwhelmingly voted in favor of the changes.
Money for community colleges
Under the amendment, 78 percent of the new tax revenue collected by the casinos will go to Colorado community colleges. Despite last month’s drop in gaming revenue, Lois Rice, Colorado Gaming Association’s executive director, said she still expects the community college system to receive $18-$25 million from the casinos the first year alone.
However, Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, said in July that projections for the amount of money they will receive the first year has dropped to the $7-$10 million range.
“It’s a sizable amount of money … but it’s not like the panacea,” she said.
Colorado community colleges currently receive $117 million in federal funding. McCallin said the additional revenue source, while not as much as originally projected, would be valuable in helping replenish some of the cuts that have faced the colleges as they have seen enrollment increase more than 30 percent.
“It’s very important long term to have found an alternative revenue source that is to be in addition to state funds, not in place of state funds,” she said. “It’s key — it will grow in importance over the next five-10 years.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters