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Colorado lawmakers divided on casino loans bill

Some members of the Colorado state legislature have expressed concerns over the resurrection of a controversial bill to permit gaming operators to loan betting credits to customers.

According to the dissenters, if approved, SB23-259 will increase gambling harm by allowing punters to place higher bets than they can afford. The bill sponsors are Rep. Ron Weinberg, Sen. Mark Baisley and Sen. Dylan Roberts.

SB23-259 supporters claim that it is targeted at high rollers in casinos to provide them a separate option from walking around with suitcases of cash and searching for ATMs to withdraw money. They also said that because of the absence of cashless gaming in several regulated markets, the bill would be a massive convenience for punters.

Democratic Rep. Marc Snyder said, “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.

“It’s something that the casinos feel will help them to build and maintain (their) customer base.”

Under SB23-259, players will need to be evaluated by the casino and apply in advance before they can receive any form of credit. Their credit history will be checked, as well as if they owe fees like child support or restitution.

Despite this, several lawmakers have claimed that the requirements might prove insufficient and allow irresponsible spending to occur. These concerns led to the bill, which had already been approved by the Senate, failing by two votes to pass the House late on Saturday.

SB23-259 received a 31-34 after the final count, with Republican Rep. Richard Holtorf among the dissenters. Holtorf asserted that people who had to borrow money to gamble had already spent the money they had and wanted to partake in the activity without spending any money.

Holtorf seemingly had a change of heart and, less than an hour after the count, asked for the vote to be repeated. He claimed at the time that he may have “voted in error”.

The lawmaker, along with fellow Republican representatives Mary Bradfield and Matthew Soper, voted “yes” in the second count while Rep. Jenny Willford switched to a “no”. SB23-259 was passed with a 33-32 count.

While Holtorf refrained from commenting on his decision, Democratic representatives criticized his move claiming that “this is why people lose trust in the government”.

The criticism continued outside the chamber, with Rep. Jennifer Parenti saying that SB23-259 was only resurrected and passed due to the “special interests in the lobby”.

“This is not just a pretty big breach of the House rules … but calls into question the integrity of the entire second vote. The people of Colorado deserve better,” she wrote on Twitter.

Other lawmakers claimed the law was resurrected despite a fair death to line casinos’ pockets. Rep. David Ortiz also referred to it as “absolutely disgustingly outrageous” in a post.

SB23-259 will be sent to the Senate for approval of the House’s amendments. If approved and signed by Gov. Jared Polis, the bill will be implemented in August this year.

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