Horse racing casino plan spurs controversy

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ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. -- Arapahoe Park horse track, located in unincorporated Arapahoe County, is the place to see horse racing up close in Colorado.

But a new proposed ballot initiative would allow the park to operate a casino with slot machines and gambling tables.

If the initiative passes, Arapahoe Park is ready to build. Artist's renderings show the 175,000-square foot casino that would sit next to the track.

Many former state representatives are backing this initiative because they say it will generate $100 million a year for schools in Colorado.

"Last year, Amendment 66 went down in flames. I think people in Colorado just couldn't afford any more taxes and we both know that Colorado schools need more money," said Vicky Armstrong, a former Colorado state representative.

But opponents, many of them casino owners in the mountains, question this.

"That's the number they are throwing around," said Michele Ames, spokesperson for Don't Turn Race Tracks into Casinos. "We don't understand on how they got to that number. I have seen no evidence that they would actually be producing $100 million a year."

Backers believe the money will be there.

And they said those against the issue are upset because they are threatened by the competition.

Opponents said what concerns them is that this initiative is a game-changer with new rules.

"They want to write special rules into our constitution to help their own bottom line," Ames said.

And while a casino will change the infrastructure here in rural Arapahoe County, homeowners who live nearby don't believe this will affect them.

"I don't see how it could (affect us). I really don't," said Susan Werhrdt, who lives in the Tollgate Crossing neighborhood.

Earlier this week, supporters turned in 135,000 petitions to the Secretary of State's office to put the measure on the November ballot.

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