Campaign to build Arapahoe Park casino emphasizes school funding in first TV ads

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DENVER -- There are no images of racehorses or slot machines in the first two television ads introduced Wednesday by the campaign supporting Amendment 68, which would allow a casino to be built at the Arapahoe Park horse racing track.

The two ads focus instead on a more broadly appealing selling point: the estimated $100 million in annual tax revenues from the casino that would go to help fund K-12 public and charter schools.

"We hear from voters that they're anxious to fund public education without a huge tax hike on you or I," said Monica McCafferty with the Coloradans for Better Schools campaign. "This creates a whole new revenue stream for education without placing a burden on all taxpayers."

The first ad features animated graphics, explaining that the money will be distributed equally to school districts based on its size.

"Because it will come from expanded gaming at horse tracks that already have wagering, it won't cost you one penny more in new taxes," a male narrator says.

The second ad features a Douglas County teacher making the same argument in a classroom.

"It's a huge investment in our kids," she says. "And all it will cost you is the time it takes to vote yes."

In 2013, Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposed income tax hike that would have generated an additional $1 billion in annual education funding. A year earlier, Colorado approved Amendment 64, legalizing recreational marijuana, which was sold to voters as a way to generate new revenues that would be directed toward the building of new schools.

The state's existing casinos in Blackhawk and other old mining towns are fighting Amendment 68, which is being driven entirely by Arapahoe Park itself.

"They want to write special rules into our constitution to help their own bottom line," said Michelle Ames with the Don't Turn Racetracks Into Casinos campaign, which questions the Yes on 68 campaign's revenue projections of $114.5 million annually for schools.

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

The projection is based off detailed forecasting by the Innovation Group, a leading global expert in gaming market research, according to McCafferty.

Additionally, the figure was presented to Legislative Review Council during the Title Board process; and the nonpartisan research staff of the Colorado General Assembly verified and accepted the projection.