Taylor talks on Amendment 33

Senator tells commissioners passage will fund tourism promotion

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Amendment 33 would provide funds to promote Colorado's tourism that have been much-needed for the past decade, Sen. Jack Taylor told Routt County commissioners and media Monday.

"We've been 10 years now without reliable funding for tourism," Taylor said. The Steamboat Springs Republican, who is sponsoring the amendment, said that without that funding, the state has slipped in its rankings as a popular vacation destination.

"We're 18 places behind Indiana," he said. "Figure that out."

Amendment 33 would install up to 500 video lottery terminals at each of the state's five horse and dog tracks, producing about $150 million in revenues in its first full-year of operation. Of those funds, $78 million would be available for distribution. Almost $59 million would go to commissions to racetrack operators, and more than $13 million would be earmarked for administrative costs.

During that first full-year, an annual cap of $25 million to promote tourism in the state would be reached. The rest of the estimated $78 million in revenue would be used for local parks and recreation, state parks, the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund and public school construction.

But the $25 million used for tourism isn't even where the state would get the biggest boost, Taylor said.

According to a study by Longwoods International for the Colorado Tourism Office, each dollar spent on tourism advertising last year translated into $205 in visitor spending.

That's where the real "shot in the arm" to support the state's tourism comes from, Taylor said.

Opponents of the amendment suggest the initiative would expand gambling, and its related social expenses, as well as put millions into Wembley PLC, a foreign-owned company whose American subsidiary owns four of Colorado's tracks.

Taylor said that many of the oppositions' claims have been exaggerated.

"The argument that there's going to be mega casinos up and down the I-25 corridor is just blue smoke," Taylor said. "It simply isn't true."

He said that the proposal prohibits terminals outside of the state's sole horse track in Aurora, the greyhound racetracks in Loveland, Commerce City, Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and the gaming establishments in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. None of those places has to accept the terminals.

Trying to get tourism-promotion funds through Amendment 33 is just one step in a long line of efforts that already have been made, Taylor said.

"We have done virtually everything we can possibly think of to fund this promotion of tourism," Taylor said.

Although video lottery terminals may not be the most popular way to firm up the funds, Taylor said, it's the state's best chance for strengthening tourism and its economy.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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