Colorado Gambling Laws

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Colorado is one of twenty-eight states in the U.S. that sees a portion of the profits from tribal casino revenues. Although lawmakers know that money generated from gambling is going a long way in boosting revenue for the state, there are no lawmakers in Colorado who have taken a step forward and attempted to propose legislation that would legalize online gambling and increase revenue to a greater extent. Just as no progress is being made in the online gambling legalization arena, no one seems to deny that Colorado residents are using the Internet to gamble.

Currently, legal forms of gambling in Colorado include the Colorado State Lottery, numerous casinos, off-track and live betting on horse and dog racing, bingo, charity games and raffles. The state also deems “social gaming” as acceptable. Forty casinos are in operation in the towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek alone. Colorado also has two tribal casinos. And with as much access as Colorado residents already have to land-based gambling, it would seem that the Colorado State legislature should at least acknowledge and eventually profit from legalizing online gambling. But no such legislation is currently in the works.

Like most states other than Nevada or New Jersey, Colorado seems reluctant to take a chance and be the first state to legalize online gambling. The Colorado Department of Revenue, Division of Gaming, is the governing body that covers all gambling-related activity in the state. Its stance is based on federal legislation enacted in 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). “Internet gambling is illegal under state and federal laws. Colorado law prohibits the transmission or reception of gambling information by any means.” The federal UIGEA “prohibits online gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to place and settle bets.”[1]

Thousands of Colorado players suffered along with worldwide poker players when the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) shut down and seized the domains of the three largest online poker sites on April 15, 2011, which has come to be known as “Black Friday” in the world of online poker. Activity at Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars screeched to a halt after the DOJ charged the three sites and the financial institutions involved as payment processors with fraud and money laundering in violation of the UIGEA. The crackdown froze players’ bank accounts and players at Full Tilt and Absolute Poker have still not received their funds more than one year later.

A January, 2011, study by the Colorado Gaming Association presented a similar quandary as to what state legislators not only in Colorado, but all over the nation, seem to be going through. The state will lose money if it doesn’t regulate online gambling, but if it does, land-based casinos will suffer. “Online gambling represents an opportunity for, and a threat to, commercial casinos in Colorado.” The study goes on to say, “If Colorado does not act on this emerging field in a timely manner, the existing commercial casino industry will be at risk.”[2]

Colorado has also taken aim at players who might owe child support in the state. Any casino patron who is lucky enough to win more than $1,200 at one of the state’s more than 40 casinos is run through a database upon attempting to collect their winnings to determine whether the winner owes child support. As of 2009, more than $600,000 has been collected from deadbeat parents who apparently have enough funds to gamble, but not enough to honor the responsibility of supporting their children. [3]

Tribal Casinos in Colorado–A Gambling Fixture Since the Early 1990s

When Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, the doors opened for tribes all over the United States to open casinos or bingo halls. The IGRA acknowledged the tribes’ sovereignty but required that all tribes operating casinos or any form of gambling establishment enter into Tribal-State compacts, or agreements. The IGRA also gave the federal government the authority to regulate gaming on reservations. [4]

The residents of Colorado voted in favor of “limited gaming” back in November of 1990. The Colorado Limited Gaming Act paved the way for games such as slot machines, blackjack and poker. The initial maximum wager, however, was limited to $5, and the gaming was permitted only “in the historic districts of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.” Those casinos also were required to close between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. [5]

In November, 2008, Colorado residents again responded positively to an amendment to the limited gaming legislation passed in 1990. Amendment 50, as it is known, increased the limits set by the 1990 law. The changes brought about by the new law, which became effective in July, 2009, allowed the towns of Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City to decide on their own whether to extend the hours of operation at their respective casinos. Amendment 50 also called for additional games to be offered by the casinos, such as roulette and craps. Of more importance to many gamblers was the increase of the allowed wagers on a single bet from $5 to $100. The amendment also required the gaming towns to give most of the tax revenue generated to the community colleges of Colorado.[6]

The first of Colorado’s two existing tribal casinos, Ute Mountain Casino, opened in 1992, shortly after Colorado residents voted in favor of limited gaming. Ute Mountain gave gamblers in the western part of the United States an alternative to Las Vegas by offering slot machines and bingo. Then, when Amendment 50 passed, Ute Mountain added blackjack, keno, and poker. Ute Mountain Casino, located in Towaoc, is owned and operated by the Weeminuche band of Utes. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe opened Colorado’s second tribal casino, Sky Ute Casino, to Colorado gamblers and tourists in November 2008. Like Ute Mountain, Sky Ute Casino offers slots, bingo, blackjack, roulette, and poker to its gamblers.

The Future of Online Gambling Undecided

Colorado residents in favor of gambling know they have plenty of options among the mountain ranges to whet their gambling appetites. The forty casinos in the towns of Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek, as well as the two tribal casinos, give Colorado residents who enjoy placing wagers ample opportunity to participate in traditional casino gambling. But with no legislation even being proposed and considered regarding the regulation of online gambling, the Colorado legislature doesn’t seem to be making any headway toward being in the forefront among the fifty states to legalize online gambling.


[1] Stance on online gambling by Colorado State Legislature
[2] Why Colorado Should Embrace Regulated Online Gambling by the Denver Post
[3] Gamblers avoiding child support forced to pay – State Legislature
[4] Native American Gambing in the USA by
[5] Colorado Gambing Laws by
[6] Colorado Amends State Laws to Allow Some Forms of Gambling by