Gamblin' for Children

My father always told me that nothing says “kid-friendly” like a day of gamblin’ at the ol’ horse track.

Coloradans for Better Schools, the backers of Initiative 135, agree. And just this week, it was reported that the initiative has received enough signatures to appear on the ballot in November. Everyone, say hello to Amendment 68 to the Colorado Constitution.

The proposed amendment would allow for a full casino to open at the Arapahoe Park Racetrack. It may also pave the way for limited gambling at racetracks in Mesa and Pueblo Counties in the future.

In exchange for the new casino, Amendment 68 promises to deposit a lump sum of $25 million into a new K-12 education fund. Thereafter, the casino will deposit 34 percent of its adjusted gross proceeds—the difference between all the money bet and all the money won for my fellow youngsters—to the fund.

Early revenue estimates are in the ballpark of $100 million. But the amendment’s opposition, backed by casino interests farther up I-70, isn’t convinced. Instead, Don’t Turn Racetracks into Casinos argues that the amendment is little more than a money grab by East-Coast gambling tycoons.

I tried to plug the numbers into my faithful pocket calculator, but it only beeped sadly in protest. For now, I’ll have to resign myself to not knowing how Amendment 68 would shake out if it passed. I do know that, as Chalkbeat Colorado reported last week, previous “sin taxes” for education have so far not lived up to their lofty promises.

Once again, my fellow students and I find ourselves standing in the political arena as the grownups argue over big numbers. It will be many years until I’m old enough to care about slot machines or blackjack. But as the fight over Amendment 68’s casino heats up, I think it’s important to remember that I’m a child, not a poker chip.