Monday, May 23, 2011

Gambling with Colorado's future, the Gaming Commission reduces casino tax rates

The Colorado Gaming Commission last week voted to reduce taxes imposed on casino gambling in the state by 5 percent, a move that will slice an estimated $5 million from community investments that are supposed to come from gaming taxes.

In an interesting bit of synchronicity, it just happens Colorado's casinos last year paid an additional $5 million in taxes as a result of getting voter permission in 2008 to operate 24 hours a day and expand the types of games they offer. Amendment 50, the constitutional measure that authorizes expanded gaming in Colorado, says the extra revenue has to go to the state's community colleges.

So in other words, Colorado's casinos have basically been let off the hook for additional taxes they agreed to pay as part of Amendment 50. Now the accounting is more complicated than that -- the numbers won't stay the same from year to year, and extra money from expanded gambling will still have to go to community colleges. But other public services will suffer as a result of the tax cut.

The Denver Business Journal reports: "Gaming tax revenues — which reached $107.7 million in 2010 — go to a variety of sources, including tourism marketing, a bioscience grant fund and the communities that have casinos in them. The projected $5 million reduction in tax revenues because of the tax cut would hit all of those areas."

Given our state's increasingly severe revenue pinch, with next year's state budget projected at $658 million lower than this year's, it's a pretty bad time to be finding ways to reduce state revenue even further.

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