Colorado Governor Jared Polis has vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed casinos to issue lines of credit to patrons. Advocates of SB23-259 contended that it would spur tourism in the state by offering affluent players an alternative to carrying large amounts of cash. Critics argued that it would serve only the casino industry and run contrary to the principles of responsible gambling.
Lawmakers in the Senate and House approved the bill earlier this month. In his veto, Polis expressed concern that it could intensify problem gambling in Colorado. In his veto letter, he highlighted a pivotal issue: whether individuals struggling with gambling addiction can truly provide informed consent to such transactions.
Polis raised the worry that so-called “high rollers” are not immune to gambling addiction, suggesting that the attraction of easy credit could precipitate financial disaster. He simultaneously reaffirmed his commitment to preserving the financial stability of Coloradans.
Polis: The Goal Is to Protect Coloradans
In his letter, Gov. Polis expressed gratitude for the sponsors’ effort to boost tourism. However, he voiced concerns that the bill’s current wording could adversely impact low-income individuals and those already struggling with gambling problems. The governor asserted:
Just as there would be issues with gaining the consent of a person with a substance use disorder who is under the influence, there are also serious issues regarding the ability of a person with a gambling disorder to freely consent to a loan while on a gambling spree.
Gov. Polis’ parallel between gambling addiction and substance addiction has scientific support. Genetics plays a significant role in addiction, and Colorado is already struggling with high levels of drug use. Research conducted by Semmelweis University in Hungary found the same link between family history and a predisposition to gambling addiction.
Bill Sponsors Point to Safeguards, Tourism Benefits
State Representative Marc Snyder, one of the bill’s sponsors, characterized SB23-259 as a piece of tourism legislation. He said it was designed to attract individuals who enjoy gambling, particularly affluent patrons from out of state. Providing such players with a secure line of credit would boost the casino industry by attracting and retaining a more substantial customer base.
The proposed legislation also required casinos to perform due diligence in the form of:
- credit checks
- background checks
- verification for unpaid child support and state restitution payments
- requirement for an advanced application
However, such provisions may not necessarily guard against problem gambling. Gamblers with an addiction or other issues may not always have poor credit or outstanding debts.
As the governor suggested in his letter, refining the bill could produce a different outcome on the next attempt. One such refinement would be the inclusion of additional responsible gaming features. Furthermore, Polis suggests that if the bill aims to attract out-of-state “high rollers,” it should be rephrased to reflect this intention explicitly.