Voters in Colorado casino town back higher stakes |

Voters in Colorado casino town back higher stakes

James Paton
Rocky Mountain News

BLACKHAWK, Colorado ” A tiny group of residents in the casino town of Black Hawk has decided to raise the stakes.

Voters in the former mining community on Tuesday passed an initiative allowing the gambling establishments to boost the betting limits to $100 from $5, add craps and roulette and stay open all day. The changes are expected to take effect in July.

Residents, who mailed in their ballots, approved the proposal by a vote of 54-6.

“I think nothing but positives can come out this,” said Tom Austin, who became a cashier at the Canyon Casino more than six years ago and later bought a home in Black Hawk.

“It’s the next natural step for us. Every community with gaming has done the same thing.”

Since casinos arrived here in 1991, the state has kept wagers at $5 and limited gambling to slot machines, blackjack and poker.

Half the tax revenue generated by gambling has gone to the state’s general fund, with 28 percent flowing to the historical society, 12 percent to Gilpin and Teller counties and 10 percent to Central City, Black Hawk and Cripple Creek.

In November, Colorado voters approved Amendment 50, allowing residents of the three municipalities to decide whether to expand gambling. Of the additional tax revenue produced in the towns, more than three-quarters will go to community colleges.

The casino operators, including Ameristar, pumped millions of dollars into the campaign to tout the proposal. Critics had worried the move could pave the way for further expansion and fuel bankruptcies, crime, compulsive gambling and other problems.

Black Hawk and its casinos have experienced a slump in recent months and have cited a weakening economy, a smoking ban and tough competition.

Austin, one of 115 registered voters in Black Hawk, said that higher stakes could translate into more jobs for the three casino communities.

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