Gambling measure garners voter approval

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Colorado voters approved a measure aimed at expanding gambling in three former mining towns, deciding that the funding needs of community colleges outweigh concerns about higher stakes.

The initiative, Amendment 50, now gives the residents of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek the opportunity to raise betting limits to $100 from $5, add craps and roulette, and expand casino hours. About 58 percent of voters supported the measure.

Proponents spent more than $7 million, mostly from Las Vegas-based casino companies, to tout its benefits. More than three-quarters of the added tax revenue would go to the community colleges. The rest of the money would flow to the towns and counties to cover "impact" costs such as police and roads.

Community college and casino representatives celebrated the results in a Curtis Hotel ballroom, watching election results appear on two giant TVs.

Rick Reiter, who operated behind the scenes managing the aggressive and well-funded effort to promote Amendment 50, had a smile on his face.

"As a coalition partner, the colleges stepped up," the veteran consultant said. "They really need the help. And hats off to the gaming guys. Five-dollar limits wasn't the best of situations. They've waited a while for this."

Opponents knew the odds favored the house, but they fought to highlight the negatives. Some worried that the move would give casino companies an incentive to try to expand gambling further and would lead to a rise in bankruptcies, crime and other problems.

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