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Poll: Voters cool on A68; like open negotiations

Only a third of Colorado voters polled in a recent survey support Amendment 68, the proposed expansion of casino gambling that would earmark some revenues for school districts.

A majority of those surveyed do support Proposition 104, the ballot measure that would require school district contract negotiations to be held in public.

The results were released Wednesday by USA Today and Suffolk University in Massachusetts.

On Amendment 68, 33 percent of respondents support it, 44 percent oppose and 19 percent are undecided.

Asked about Proposition 104, 54 percent of respondents support it, 24 percent oppose and 19 percent are undecided.

Amendment 68 is a constitutional change that would allow location of a full casino at the Arapahoe Park racetrack and possibly at two other locations in the future. A portion of revenues would be funneled to school districts on a per-pupil basis.

Proponents estimate annual school revenues at more than $100 million a year, but critics argue passage would reduce tax revenues for other programs that now are generated by casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. The high-spending campaign pits Arapahoe Park’s corporate parent, a Rhode Island gaming company, against the companies that own the mountain casinos.

Colorado voters have been skeptical of expanding gambling beyond the mountain casinos and the state lottery. Ballot measures in 1984, 1992 and 1996 proposed allowing casinos in Pueblo, various eastern plains towns, Parachute and Trinidad, and all promised some revenue for schools. None of them passed. Voters also soundly defeated a 2003 initiative that would have allowed casino-style gambling at Arapahoe Park and devoted some revenue to tourism promotion. (See this Chalkbeat Colorado backgrounder for a history of sin taxes and education funding in Colorado.)

The two campaigns had predictable reactions to the poll.

Monica McCafferty of Coloradans for Better Schools said, “Once they [voters] learn that Amendment 68 will create a new K-12 Education Fund without a huge tax hike — they support our measure. Each and every day we speak to voters across the state; we are confident that this momentum will carry us into November. The feedback we’re hearing on-the-ground and based on real conversations with real voters is more important to us than a static poll, particularly this early into election season.”

Michelle Ames of the No on 68 committee said, “The more Coloradans learn about this terrible deal for Colorado, the more they find to dislike about it.”

Proposition 104, a proposed change to state law, has a much lower profile than A68, given that the two sides haven’t had the money for advertising campaigns. The prime proponent is the conservative Independence Institute, which bankrolled the petition-circulating effort needed to get the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Institute President Jon Caldara said, “I have seen polling that puts it even higher. Coloradans know that secrecy is the enemy of good government. This isn’t about unions. It’s about transparency.”

Opponents of the proposition, primarily education interest groups, argue that it’s unnecessary and vaguely written enough that it will lead to confusion and court fights.

The Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll surveyed 500 “likely” voters by phone between last Saturday and Tuesday. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent. Get more details here.

The poll was one of several released in recent days. They surveys paint conflicting pictures of voter attitudes in the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. Get the details in this story from our partners at the Denver Business Journal.

Voter guide ready to read

The legislature’s non-partisan staff has finished work on the 2014 “blue book,” the analysis of all this year’s ballot measures. You can read it here, and copies will be mailed to the homes of registered voters.

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