Betting on Colorado

Gambling money could bring $19M to tourism promotion

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Two Western Slope politicians think it's a sure bet that investing in Colorado tourism will boost the state's economy.

State Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, and state Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, are co-sponsors of House Bill 1201, which would use state gambling revenues to inject $19 million into promoting Colorado nationally and overseas as a tourist destination.

Rep. Al White is co-sponsoring "eminent domain" legislation to prevent governmental seizure of private property for use that would enhance local economies or tax revenues.

Introduced in the House on Tuesday, the bipartisan legislation -- also supported by Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff, a Denver Democrat -- requires the condemning authority to prove that the taking of private property is for public use. Although White said in a news release that the bill is "the quickest and most effective way" to prevent eminent domain land seizures, he told the Pilot & Today that he would rather see a constitutional change than a statutory law. "Frankly, I perceive (the bill) simply as a stop-gap measure," White said.

Both men represent Steamboat at the Capitol in Denver and saw the tourism bill take a significant step forward Monday when it earned final approval in the Senate, on a 34-1 vote. The House of Representatives approved the bill March 16 and will now act on its amended form.

If the House approves Senate amendments, HB 1201 will go before Gov. Bill Owens for passage into law.

"This bill means more jobs in Colorado. It means more tax revenue for state and local governments and increased economic activity," Taylor said. "The extra $19 million for tourism promotion will help people remember that Colorado is a beautiful state with a lot to offer in all seasons, and it will encourage them to vacation in Colorado."

The bill received little opposition on its path through several House and Senate committees and has the support of Rep. Tom Plant, D-Nederland, chairman of the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee.

Taylor, a Steamboat resident, has worked toward such a bill throughout his 14 years at the Capitol. The bill is one of the most significant pieces of legislation this year for Taylor and White.

"The perennial issue that I am putting forth once again is a permanent source of funding for tourism marketing," White told the Steamboat Pilot & Today in January, before the legislative session began. "Sen. Taylor and I have worked together on tourism issues over the years, and we are continuing to do so."

Colorado spends about $5 million on tourism promotion annually.

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