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Colorado Charitable Gaming

A 1979 statute allowed nonprofit, tax-exempt, religious, charitable, educational and fraternal organizations to conduct casino-type gaming under certain conditions. However, this law was repealed in 1984, due to difficulties with its enforcement and abuse. In 1991, the General Assembly passed the Limited Gaming Act of 1991, which legalized limited gaming and allowed provisions for qualifying nonprofit organizations to host charitable gaming activities. Charitable gaming activities included bingo, progressive bingo, raffles (including wheel), progressive pull-tab and last-sale pull-tab games. A raffle for charitable gaming purposes does not include any game of chance that is authorized or regulated by the state Lottery Division.

On 1 December 2006, the legislature passed and the governor signed into law HB06-1086, which removed many statutory restrictions for charitable bingo and raffles from the Limited Gaming Act and assigned the regulation of those games by use of rules to the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office.

An eligible charitable organization must first register with the SOS before it can apply for a charitable gaming license. Only qualified nonprofit organizations – such as religious, charitable, labor, fraternal, educational, voluntary firefighters' or veterans organizations – that have been in existence in Colorado for five or more years are eligible to be licensed and conduct bingo or raffles. Once registered, the qualified organization can apply online for a bingo/raffle license and pay a $100 fee. However, before a licensee can host bingo or raffles, there must be a designated games manager holding a valid games manager certificate. To obtain a certificate, an individual must complete SOS training courses. The state requires that a certified games manager be present at all of the organization's gaming activities. A certificate fee costs $20 and is valid for four years.

The Limited Gaming Act also allows retailers licensed with the Gaming Division to sponsor up to 30 charity nights each year. A single charity cannot participate in more than three charity nights a year. The Commission has imposed a tax on the retail license holder of 3% of Adjusted Gross Proceeds from the charity night events. A retail license holder is required to formally disclose its intent to sponsor charitable gaming with the Gaming Division beforehand.

By law, the SOS is required to review fees annually and adjust them, if needed, so that the revenues generated approximate the administrative costs and a reasonable reserve. Effective 1 January 2008, the SOS office increased the online registration fees.

In November 2009, the SOS office made organizations' filing registrations and renewals mandatory using the agency's online registration.

In March 2013, the SOS added sporting event raffles, in which the winner is determined from the scores of sporting events. Charitable gaming licensees may hold this type of raffle only if the licensee can demonstrate to the SOS that each ticket sold has an equal chance to win with every other ticket sold.

On 28 May 2013, Gov. Hickenlooper signed HB13-1260l, legislation that eliminated the 35-game limit per bingo event and allows unlimited games during one event as long as the $2,000 maximum bingo jackpot limit is not exceeded. The legislation took effect on 7 August 2013. On 3 May, the governor also signed HB13-1101, which added progressive raffles as an allowable charitable gaming activity. This law took effect on 1 January 2014.

In November 2020, Amendment C was on the Colorado ballot. It would have required charitable organizations to have existed for three years before obtaining a charitable gaming license instead of the existing constitutional requirement of five years. The amendment would have allowed charitable organizations to hire managers and operators of gaming activities so long as they are not paid paid more than the minuum wage. As of 2020, the constitution required those who operated charitable gaming activities to be a member of the organization working as an unpaid volunteer. Amendment C failed as it only received 52.35% of the vote, instead of the 55% supermajority vote that is required for constituational amendments in Colorado.

In November 2022, voters will decide on the Colorado Amendment F, the Charitable Gaming Measure. A “Yes” vote would repeal the ban on paying managers and operators of charitable gaming activities and limit compensation amounts to the applicable mininum wage until 1 July 2024; allow the legislature to determine in statutue how long an organization must exist before obtaining a charitable gaming license after 1 January 2025; and reduce from 5 years to 3 years the length of time an organization must exist before obtaining a charitable gaming license through 1 January 2025. A “No” vote opposes this amendment, thereby leaving in place the existing ban on paying managers and operators and the existing requirement that organizations must exist for at least 5 years before obtaining a license.
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