Editor’s Note: This story was updated on May 9 at 6:10 a.m. EST to clarify that a bill to allow casino to offer customers credit was not considered by the Colorado Senate
As the Colorado General Assembly closed out this year’s regular legislative session on Monday (May 8), a ban on wagering on simulcast greyhound races was overwhelmingly approved, while a bill to allow casino operators to extend credit to customers wasn't considered prior to adjournment.
House Bill 23-1041 to outlaw betting on simulcast greyhound races has been sent to Democratic Governor Jared Polis for his signature or veto after the Senate on Friday (May 5) voted 33-2 to approve the measure.
Live greyhound racing is banned in 42 states, including Colorado, but despite banning greyhound races in 2014, lawmakers at the time left a loophole allowing for pari-mutuel wagering on out-of-state races to continue.
Currently, there are only two active racetracks left in the U.S., both in West Virginia. Greyhound races are also simulcast from the UK and Mexico.
The racetracks — Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes and Wheeling Island in Wheeling — are owned by Delaware North. Advance deposit wagering (ADW) on dog racing is big business, with the track in Wheeling reporting $233.67m in handle last year and Mardi Gras posting $124.15m in handle, according to the West Virginia Racing Commission.
Colorado state Representative Monica Duran, a Democrat and House majority leader who was one of four House and Senate sponsors of the bill, has described the measure as being carefully drafted to close a loophole to end simulcast betting and nothing else.
Duran was unavailable for comment Monday.
Even though Colorado banned live greyhound racing, lawmakers allowed simulcast betting to continue and fund a greyhound rescue program in addition to the Horse Breeders’ and Owners’ Awards and Supplemental Purse Fund.
The bill was amended by its House sponsors in February after horse breeders and races objected to the loss of funds from ADW on greyhounds for horse races.
As a fix, sponsors amended the bill to keep simulcasting in effect through October 1, 2024, giving the horseracing industry time to secure alternative funding.
The bill also creates the greyhound welfare and adoption fund and requires that, of the money that is paid to the Colorado Department of Revenue by horseracing and simulcast licensees, the department must transfer $25,000 on January 1, 2025 to the fund.
Another $50,000 is required to be transferred on January 1, 2026. The fund is repealed effective August 1, 2026.
According to a report by the Legislative Council Staff, the wagering ban on simulcasts of greyhound races will cost the state general fund $479,991 in fiscal year 2024-205, and $614,440 in fiscal year 2025-2026.
Prohibiting wagering on greyhound races will eliminate the pari-mutuel tax revenue from greyhound wagering at in-state simulcast facilities. The state also collects a 5 percent sources market fee from out-of-state simulcast locations that accept wagering from Colorado resident.
Eliminating the 0.75 percent greyhound pari-mutuel tax will cost the state $120,143 in fiscal year 2024-2025, while eliminating source market fees will cost $136,583 in 2024-2025. Prior to banning live greyhound racing in Colorado, pari-mutuel wagers at the racetrack’s were taxed at 4.5 percent.
On the Senate side of the state capitol in Denver, senators on Monday did not consider a controversial bill to allow casinos to offer their customers lines of credit. Senate Bill 23-259 had passed the Senate, but needed to be approved by the House on Saturday.
Initially, the bill was rejected by a 31-34 vote. But in another vote on Saturday, the bill passed 33-32 after three Republican representatives switched their votes from no to yes, while Representative Jenny Willford, a Democrat, changed her yes vote to a no, according to legislative voting records.
The bill was in the Senate on Monday to consider the House’s modest changes.
Under the bill, casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek would have been required to determine whether a patron is creditworthy and check other factors, such as whether they have unpaid debt due to the state or owe child support or restitution, before approving a line of credit.
The minimum line of credit is at least $1,000, and the financial obligations created must be fully paid back within 150 days.