After altering a Colorado gambling bill, advocates of problem gambling services are now questioning the motives of state lawmakers.
The bill in question, sponsored by House Speaker Alec Garnett, would fund a $3 million grant program through the state’s Limited Gaming Control Commission.
However, Senate lawmakers recently altered language in the bill changing the amount from a “continuous” occurrence to an “annual” occurrence.
As a result, funding for problem gambling services in Colorado would have to be reapproved each year.
Advocates in Colorado not pleased
Peggy Brown, president of the Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado, said the Senate’s action “reeks” of power.
“I feel that all the stakeholders came together, and everybody agreed on the way this was to be done — and that’s a lot of people in those negotiations,” Brown said.
“Everybody made concessions and gave up certain things — then, at the last minute, they do this. To me, that doesn’t feel good. It reeks of politics, reeks of control, reeks of power. And now the coalition, an all-volunteer organization, is going to have to pitch every year why we need the funding.”
The change has been unwelcomed by advocates who argue that “problem gambling is often the last funded and first to cut.”
Although pleased by lawmakers addressing problem gambling, Brianne Doura-Schawohl, a consultant representing the National Council on Problem Gambling, said the trade group isn’t fond of the process.
“We’re pleased to see Colorado has decided to address this long-neglected, important public health issue. That being said, we don’t feel that this is an appropriate way to go about it,” Doura-Schawohl said.
“The intention of this legislation was to create and secure funding to address the needs of gambling addiction in the state. Having an open-ended grant program that needs to receive annual appropriation leaves this in a vulnerable state.”
Problem gambling bill’s discussion is far from over in Colorado
HB 22-1402 passed through the House by a 53-12 vote and by the Senate 25-8 on May 9. Furthermore, the bill still needs to clear another passage through the House before reaching the desk of Governor Jared Polis.
As a result of the Senate’s alterations, Garnett said the House might refuse the amendment but did not confirm when.
“I’m not completely clear as to why an annual review is a good idea. I think, for the most part, the bill that came out of the House was great. It’s a monumental step forward. I will be meeting with the stakeholders to take a closer look at the Senate amendments.”