While the recent elections had a landmark effect on the shape of Washington, D. C., it also affected a couple of states and their laws regarding gaming. In those two states, gaming faced some strong headwinds to being approved. In the end, however, those two states – Colorado and Nebraska – overwhelmingly passed the legislation that was on their ballots and new gaming options and limits will be instituted.
Colorado Cities to Decide on Stakes
The question to voters in Colorado was covered in Amendment 77. That amendment to the Colorado Constitution was for the three cities that have poker – Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek – to have the autonomy to decide what stakes the players would play. Previously state law had capped the limit at a player putting $100 on the table. This inhibited higher stakes play – you can’t bring $100 to a $5/$10 cash game, for example.
The vote wasn’t close by any stretch of imagination. In the end, 1,854,153 voters statewide (60.5%) voted in favor of letting the cities have more control over the stakes that their poker and table games would carry. Only 1,208,414 people voted against the bill (39.5%). Only five of the 64 counties in the Centennial State voted against the measure, indicating the dominance the “Yes” votes had in the race.
The new stakes aren’t expected to have any impact until the casinos can actively get back to operation and the three cities can make their decisions on gaming. If it is anything like Florida, however, it could mean that Colorado is on the precipice of a poker “explosion” from passing the new regulations.
In 2007, Florida allowed for its dog and horse racing/simulcasting tracks to open for poker, but with strict betting limits that prevented any serious action from taking place. In 2009, however, the state passed through new laws that eliminated these limits. Following the implementation of these new laws, poker tours like the World Series of Poker Circuit, the World Poker Tour and other smaller tournament circuits flocked to Florida to offer their wares.
The effect has been tremendous on Florida’s poker rooms. For Fiscal Year 2019/2020 (concluded in June 2020), the 25 poker rooms pulled in more than $132 million in revenues. This was even though there was a three-month period, including the month of April, that was affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns across the state.
Nebraska Passes New Casino Gaming Regulations
Voters in the state of Nebraska also faced several expansion of gaming questions on their ballots back in November. Nebraska Initiatives 429, 430 and 431 were under consideration to expand casino gaming to racetracks that were already located in the state. These casinos would be allowed to offer the usual fare at a casino – table games, slots, poker – and it seemed that the good people of the Cornhusker State were more than willing to allow the racetracks to have full-fledged casinos also.
Initiative 429 was the major one as, without its passage, the other two initiatives would be unnecessary. Initiative 429 was for the amendment to the Nebraska Constitution to allow gambling at racetrack facilities in the state. That initiative passed overwhelmingly with a 65/35 breakdown of the vote (588,405 in favor, 316,298 against). The other two initiatives (Initiative 430 established the Nebraska Gaming Commission to regulate the new casinos and Initiative 431 determined the taxation) passed by similar large numbers.
The new casinos in Nebraska will bring not only casino gaming to the state but will also offer legalized poker in the state for the first time. It also will allow for the state to keep monies that were going elsewhere, including to neighboring Iowa, Missouri, and Colorado. It is expected that these new casinos will be operational in late 2021.