If voters approve Proposition DD on the November ballot, sports books will be allowed not only at state-licensed casinos in Central City, Blackhawk and Cripple Creek, but also at Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio and Ute Mountain Casino in Towaoc.
Proposition DD is on the November ballot, as required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, because it would add a new 10% tax on sports wagering at the historic mountain mining towns in central Colorado, where casinos are licensed by the state.
But in addition, state gaming compacts between the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe allow for all Class 3 gaming contests permitted within the state at the date of their adoption in the mid-1990s. Also, both compacts entitle the tribes to add any Class 3 games subsequently allowed by the state, including sports wagering.
Michael Hoenig, general counsel with the National Indian Gaming Commission, said if the state gaming compacts give a blanket approval of all Class 3 games, the tribes might not need to seek an amendment to their state compacts before going ahead with opening sports books.
“I don’t have the contracts in front of me. It depends on their wording, but if there is a blanket approval for all Class 3 games, they likely would not need to amend their compacts,” he said.
If the tribes decide to operate their sports books directly without outside management, Hoenig said the tribes would not need to seek approval from the National Indian Gaming Commission, a federal agency.
However, if the tribes seek an outside contractor to run the sports books, a management contract would have to be approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Frequently, operators such as Caesars Palace or other Las Vegas gaming corporations are contracted to operate sports books at Native American casinos, Hoenig said.
Efforts to contact tribal councilors for the Ute Mountain Utes and the Southern Utes for this story were unsuccessful.
However, Peter Ortego, general counsel for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, in an email, said: “The Tribe has not taken an official position yet on whether it wants sports betting, but we believe we will be able to participate if DD passes.”
Ortego said the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council may consider adding a sports book at the tribe’s casino as soon as this month.
Lindsay Box, spokeswoman with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, said the Tribal Council unanimously agreed to issue a joint statement on Proposition DD and adding a sports book at Sky Ute Casino: “The Southern Ute Indian Tribe takes no position on the proposed propositions. Any new idea in the gaming industry brings excitement and potential opportunities but also requires considerable due diligence to make sure it makes sense both economically for the Tribe and for the Southern Ute community. No decision has yet been made by the Tribe on sports betting.”
According to a staff member of the Legislative Council, which drafted Proposition DD, opening sports books at the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute casinos was never discussed by the Colorado General Assembly when it OK’d the ballot question.
The Legislative Council staff member, who requested anonymity, agreed with Hoenig that amendments to state compacts may not be needed if current compacts give blanket approval to future games of chance approved at later dates by the state.
Barbara Bowman, interim director of the Durango Area Tourism Office, said the region’s tourism economy would be boosted by the addition of Las Vegas-style sports books.
“In tourism, the more you have to offer the better,” she said. “You always want to appeal to a diverse audience. If the tribes want to go with this, adding new amenities and offerings is always a good thing.”