It was an historic election in the United States last month. Voters elected the first African-American president, the Democrats gained an even tighter grip on Congress and gaming celebrated its most positive results in years.
Barack ObamaÆs election to the presidency was not only historic, but it could be transformative. While his choice was not celebrated by the financial communityùif measured by the New York Stock Exchange diving more than 800 points in the two days following the electionùhis approach to the slumping economy will undoubtedly be aggressive.
While the impact of an Obama administration and an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress is uncertain on gaming, online gaming is more enthusiastic since the role of champion Rep. Barney Frank has been front-and-center in the economic bailout.
But it was in state referendums where the gaming industry made the most gains. The following results were mostly good news for the gaming business:
Colorado adds craps and more
Sixty percent of Colorado voters favored Amendment 50, which allows the stateÆs three gambling towns to let casinos raise maximum bets from $5 to $100, add craps and roulette, and stay open 24 hours every day. The changes could take effect by mid-2009.
Cripple CreekÆs mayor said the local vote will be held as soon as possible. Black Hawk and Central City were expected to follow suit soon.
New taxes from increased gaming revenue will go mostly to ColoradoÆs community college system. “The state estimates the revisions would bring in an additional $300 million over the next five years,” one report said.
Guam says no, goodbye greyhounds
Voters on Guam have soundly rejected the initiative to establish casino gaming at Guam Greyhound Park. The vote ended with 19,449 against and 13,735 forùa result of 58.6 percent opposed.
Just two days later, John Baldwin, racetrack owner and the driving force behind the failed Proposition A, announced he is closing the track immediately and putting it up for sale.
Maryland: Yes on slots
Maryland voters approved a constitutional amendment that legalizes a total of 15,000 slot machines to be placed at five locations in the state. The amendment, crafted and promoted by Governor Martin OÆMalley, passed with a comfortable 59 percent margin.
The referendum authorizes slots at one facility in each of three countiesùAnne Arundel, Cecil and Worcesterùplus one in the city of Baltimore and another on state-owned land at Rocky Gap State Park in western Maryland. The specific locations sited provide that slots may be added to two racetracks, Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County and Ocean Downs in Worcester County. While the language of the referendum does not require slots to be added to those specific sites, it has been presumed that those tracks will become racinos.
The amendment provides for the creation of a gambling commission that would be empowered to alter the number of slots permitted in any one location according to market conditions, though none will be permitted to have more than 4,750.
Maine casino rejected
Hollywood Slots casino in Bangor will remain the only slots in Maine with the decisive defeat of Question 2, a measure that would have authorized a $184 million casino and hotel in Oxford County.
The vote was 54 percent against Las Vegas-based Olympia GamingÆs proposal, which it jumped into weeks before the election after the original sponsor dropped out.
Not now in Ohio
OhioÆs Issue 6 casino proposal went down in a 2-1-margin defeat with about 3.28 million voting against and 1.95 million for. Yet, the proponents, MyOhioNow, say they will return again next year with a more fine-tuned proposal, this one with casinos in multiple locations, instead of just one.
The opposition against the $600 million casino, the fourth to be defeated in the last 18 years, centered on two groups, one of them funded by Penn National Gaming Inc. The first group, the American Policy Roundtable, is a conservative organization that opposed the casino because it opposes gambling. But the second, No on 6 Committee, funded by Penn National, opposed it because it would have competed with operations that it has in nearby states, such as IndianaÆs Argosy Casino.
Rick Lertzman and Brad Pressman, who put the measure together and brought in developer Lakes Entertainment to build the casino complex, luxury hotel, 2,500-seat theater, golf course and eight restaurants, said they will be back.
Missouri ends loss limits
Voters in Missouri last month ended the stateÆs unique $500 gambling loss limit put in place in 1992, which casino owners felt had hobbled the gaming industry and made it less competitive against casinos in other states.
The vote on Proposition A was lopsided, 56 percent in favor and 44 percent against.
To balance out the removal of the loss limit, gaming taxes will go from 20 percent to 21 percent, giving education an estimated additional $110 million a year; and the measure put a lid on new casinos in the state at 13, something that existing casino owners are happy about, since it means that the market wonÆt become saturated.
The limit was immediately lifted.
West Virginia resort goes to tables
A referendum authorizing table games at the Greenbrier Resort passed by 366 of 13,000 votes cast in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. The vote prompted the resort to start seeking “a third-party advisor to comprehensively evaluate gamingÆs potential impacts,” Greenbrier President Andrew Fogarty wrote to employees the day after the election.
In Massachusetts, voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum that puts an end to greyhound racing before January 1, 2010. The result means the Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park in Raynham and the Wonderland Greyhound Park in Revere will be forced to close, throwing more than 1,000 people out of work. ItÆs unclear what this means to the tracksÆ pursuit of slots, which has been put aside until next year.
Arkansans voted 63 percent to 37 percent to legalize a lottery, which the state constitution has banned for 172 years.
In Delaware, Jack Markell was elected governor. Markell is open to the expansion of gaming, which was not true of the current governor, Ruth Ann Minner. Delaware is likely to add sports betting and table games within the next two years to combat the new competition from slot machines in Maryland.