by Duane Gall and Patti Dahlberg
Colorado may have been born out of the Wild West, but when the good citizens of the state approved the original state constitution in 1876, they wanted no part of any “lotteries or gift enterprises for any purpose.” Article XVIII, section 2 of the Colorado Constitution of 1876 required the General Assembly to pass laws prohibiting the sale of lottery or gift enterprise tickets in the state.
Since that time, the state has softened its stance on lotteries and “gift enterprises”, and this November 2, the voters will have the opportunity to loosen the restrictions on charitable gaming even more when they vote on Amendment C.
Evolution of charitable gaming in Colorado.
In 1958, some citizens circulated a petition to put an initiative on the ballot to amend article XVIII, section 2 to permit the operation of certain games of chance by nonprofit organizations as a way to raise funds to support their charitable activities. Under that exception, the Secretary of State could license nonprofit organizations that had operated continuously in Colorado for at least five years to conduct raffles or bingo games. The organizations had to meet three specific conditions: (1) The proceeds of a game had to be exclusively devoted to the purposes of the nonprofit organization conducting the game; (2) Only members of the organization could be involved in managing and operating the game; and (3) The organization could not pay bingo or raffle managers or workers any wages. The voters approved the amendment 51% to 49%. These provisions remain in place today.
Since article XVIII, section 2 was last amended, Colorado voters have legalized several gambling options in addition to those involving charities. In 1980, voters approved state-run lotteries; in 1990, they approved limited gaming in casinos in three areas of the state; and just last year, they approved sports betting in Colorado. As the gambling market has grown more crowded since 1958, it’s likely the market share enjoyed by charitable gaming has dwindled significantly.
Changes proposed by Amendment C
Amendment C offers Colorado voters the first chance to change article XVIII, section 2 in almost 40 years. On June 15, the last day of the 2020 legislative session, the General Assembly adopted House Concurrent Resolution 20-1001, which places Amendment C on the ballot.
As explained in the 2020 Bluebook, Amendment C:
- Decreases from five to three the number of years that a nonprofit organization must operate in Colorado to qualify for a bingo-raffle license. The measure further authorizes the General Assembly, after January 1, 2024, to change the years of operation by enacting a statute. Thus, future changes to the required number of operating years would not require a constitutional amendment and so would not be subject to a statewide vote.
- Eliminates the requirement that persons who manage or work a raffle or bingo game be members of the nonprofit organization that hosts the game; and
- Permits people who manage or operate raffles and bingo games to receive compensation, such as meals or payment. But the compensation paid to these managers and operators cannot exceed the minimum wage.
Amendment C is a constitutional amendment that does more than just repeal existing language. As such, under article XIX, section 2 (1)(b) of the Colorado Constitution, the amendment requires a 55% majority vote to pass.
2020 State Ballot Information Booklet, Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly, Research Publication No. 748-1.
For more information on the ballot measure process, see:
- https://legisource.net/2018/10/11/an-introduction-to-initiatives/ and https://legisource.net/2018/10/19/an-introduction-to-initiatives-continued/
 Art. XVIII, section 2 of the Colorado Constitution was amended again in 1980 to authorize the General Assembly to establish state-supervised lotteries, some of the proceeds of which go to municipalities and counties for park, recreation, and open space purposes. That amendment passed by a whopping 59.8% to 40.2%.