Legislation revived after failing first vote

Bill allowing casinos to offer gamblers lines of credit controversially passes the Colorado House

Reading time 2:01 min

A bill that allows casinos to offer lines of credit got an unusual and controversial re-vote to pass the Colorado House. The apparent death, and subsequent resurrection, of the legislation provoked outrage from some members of the state legislature, who criticized the process and believe the plan will make it easier for casinos to keep people gambling beyond what they can afford.

Under bill SB23-259, casinos would be allowed to loan gambling money to customers. While the proposal had bipartisan sponsors, who argue that having credit available would be a convenience for wealthy gamblers, it also had bipartisan opposition. In an unusual sequence of events on late Saturday, the thought-to-be-dead bill was controversially revived

The disagreement came to a head late on Saturday. The bill, which had passed the Senate, needed one final vote of approval in the House. But to the surprise of its sponsors, it fell two votes short on the final count, with Republican Rep. Richard Holtorf among the bill’s doubters.

If you’re having to borrow money to gamble that means you already spent the money you had to spend on gambling, and now you’re wanting to get in the game without any money,” Holtorf had said earlier in the week, as reported by CPR News. He also added that he was “struggling” with the bill and suggested an amendment, which he later withdrew.

On Saturday, when the proposal fell just short in a 31-34 vote, Holtorf was a no – but just less than an hour later, he asked for the vote to be taken again, stating that he “may have voted in error.” On the second attempt, both he and Republican Representatives Mary Bradfield and Matthew Soper switched their votes from “no” to “yes”, while Rep. Jenny Willford switched from a “yes” to a “no.” Thus, the bill passed 33-32.

The reconsideration of the bill sparked criticism from some members of the legislature, among them Rep. Bob Marshall of Douglas County, who expressed doubt on the idea that Holtorf had miscast a vote; and Rep. Jennifer Parenti, who said that a sponsor of the bill had been conferring with “special interests in the lobby” before returning to resurrect the bill. For his part, Holtorf declined to comment after the vote.

Those in favor of the plan say the bill will make the Colorado gambling market more competitive. “It’s really trying to attract folks that want to gamble […] Gives them the opportunity ahead of time to apply for credit with the casino,” said Rep. Marc Snyder, a Democratic sponsor, as per CPR News. It’s something that the casinos feel will help them to build and maintain (their) customer base,” he added, describing it as “a tourism bill.”

The legislation’s next step is for the Senate to consider the House’s amendments. It would eventually require the signature of Gov. Jared Polis, and would go into effect in August. Casinos would be required to determine whether a person is creditworthy and check other factors, such as whether they owe child support or restitution, before approving them for a line of credit.

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