An Overview of Gambling Laws in the State Of Colorado
There is a giant 169 year gap between the first recorded Casino in the Mountain State – and the first legal casinos opening their doors. As Colorado enjoyed a boom from the Gold Rush, Brown’s Saloon was opened in 1822 – spanning the 3 State borders with Wyoming and Utah. In 1991, Colorado legalized casino gambling and residents can now enjoy casino and poker games at more than 40 venues. This page covers the Colorado gambling laws in detail.
First up below you will find a quick-fire history of gambling in Colorado, with the major events and gambling types covered. After that you will find a run-through of the different games – along with information on the current legal status of each. Next is a legislative timeline, covering the important dates and the main acts passed. At the end of this article I have summed it all up, and speculated on what the future may hold in terms of gambling for Colorado residents.
While the gold rush years were certainly a heyday for gambling, this bears little resemblance to the modern games. Colorful characters like ‘Poker Alice’ were famously relieving the prospectors of their hard-earned cash – and unregulated casinos were springing up to take advantage. This led to the creation of Browns Saloon in 1822 – which offered gambling to the fur trappers who were common in those days.
It was 1991 before Colorado saw its first legal casinos opening – albeit with limited stakes and at only 3 locations. The towns of Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City were allowed to open casinos, with maximum stakes of $5 and a curfew at 2am. In addition, casinos opened up in the Tribal lands in the south of this State, with both ‘Ute’ tribes opening casinos which stayed within the State guidelines. Agreements (or ‘Compacts’) were signed with both tribes in 1995.
Casinos got a huge boost in Colorado in 2008, when legislation was passed allowing the individual towns which host the casinos to vote on liberalizing their rules. Stakes are now allowed up to $100, which for most casino games is creeping into high-roller territory. The curfews were abolished, with 24 hour opening now possible where there is the demand. Roulette and Craps were also added to the list of games – joining Poker, Blackjack and Slots.
The Colorado Gaming Association, who represent gambling industry interests have made some noises about introducing a bill to legalize online poker. Though no bills have yet been published. This would fit in with Colorado’s pragmatic attitude to gambling – and increase further the tax revenues, which are given to projects including community colleges. We will have to wait and see.
You can also bet on horses and greyhounds, enjoy a lottery and take part in charity fundraising via bingo and raffle type games in Colorado.
Casino Games: Yes, there are more than 40 casinos in Colorado which are licensed and controlled by the State. These offer a full range of slots, plus blackjack, roulette, craps and poker games. There are also 2 Tribal casinos in the South of the state who offer these games plus Keno.
Online Casino Games: No, while there is no specific legislation, online gambling is assumed to be banned under the broad definition of both gambling and fact that this is banned unless specifically licensed by the State.
Live Poker: Yes, there are card rooms at many of the casinos and some big live poker games and tournaments. Colorado recently hosted its first $1million guaranteed poker tournament. Home-games are permitted under a broad ‘social games’ definition.
Online Poker: No, this State is thought to be in the process of considering legislation, this would fit the generally progressive laws here. In 2005, the Attorney General issued advice that online poker was covered by the current blanket ban on gambling that is not specifically licensed or exempted.
Sports Betting: Only pari-mutuel (pooled) betting on Greyhounds and Horses is allowed.
Lottery Betting: Yes, there is a lottery which pledges that profits are invested in community colleges and other causes. Colorado share nationwide games, including the infamous Powerball.
Bingo: Yes, charitable Bingo and raffles are available – like other forms of gambling in Colorado, these games need to be individually licensed.
Along with Utah and Wyoming, Colorado is said to have hosted the first full-blown US casino in 1822, when Brown’s Salon opened on land where the 3 States met. It would be a full 169 years before legislation was passed for the first fully legal casinos in the Mountain State.
Here is the core definition of gambling from the CO statutes:
Here is a timeline of the legal changes:
1983: The Colorado lottery begins, first with scratch cards – with the first draw taking place on the 23rd of April. Inter-State game ‘Powerball’ became available in 2001, and Mega Millions in 2009.
1991: A law is passed which licenses casinos in 3 Colorado towns, Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City. This led to a boom in development in these towns. Stakes at this time were limited to $5 maximum bets and games were limited to Slots, Poker and Blackjack. This was far from a landslide victory for the proponents of gambling, with some 41.3% of votes going against.
1995: Compacts are signed with the 2 main Indian Tribes, who are located in South Colorado to run their own casinos free from reporting and taxation from the State. The Ute Mountain Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe agree to keep their betting limits in line with the State guidelines and to restrictions on the types of game on offer – with Keno being the only notable addition to the games on offer at State Licensed venues.
1999: The Bingo-Raffle Advisory Board created. This board licenses charity games, which include ‘Las Vegas’ or ‘Monte Carlo’ charity casino events as well as bingo and raffles. These events are for non-profit organizations, and used to raise funds for their good causes.
2005: Colorado’s Attorney General advises that online gambling is covered by the existing laws. Stating that this fell under the blanket definition of gambling which is not specifically licensed.
2008: Amendment 50 becomes law, this allows the residents of the 3 licensed towns to vote on extending the operation of their casinos around the clock (originally they had a 2AM curfew). Table limits are increased to $100 and revenues were pledged to the community colleges in Colorado. Craps and Roulette are added to the list of games available.
Colorado are one of a number of States which have a fair amount of opportunities to gamble, but are very strict when it comes to gambling outside of their jurisdiction. Gamblers are rarely given more than a slap on the wrist and a small fine. Those who organize illegal gambling activities are dealt with very harshly in the Mountain State.
This State has been identified as one of the more likely candidates to relax their ban on online gambling by industry news sources. While Colorado has track record of gradual liberalization of their gambling laws – there is currently no sign of a bill or an obvious sponsor for one.
Browns Saloon History
2005 Advise on online gambling
Colorado gaming association
Statute Details – Social gambling exception + Tribal Casinos