City council divided on race-track casino ballot question

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AURORA | Aurora City Council members remain divided on a ballot measure that will ask voters in November whether they want casino-style gaming added to the Arapahoe Park Race Track in Aurora.  The measure, which would allow 2,500 slot machines and 65 gaming tables at the southeast Aurora track, will appear on the November ballot as Amendment 68. 

Aurora City Councilman Bob Broom introduced a resolution at a study session Monday asking council members to oppose gaming at Arapahoe Park. He said adding gambling would only exasperate heavy traffic and road problems in south Aurora on Gun Club Road and Quincy Avenue without providing money for infrastructure improvements. 

The measure failed because under city council rules, city positions on ballot questions must garner unanimous support. Brooms request didn’t make that mark.

“In this case all of the money has been set aside for schools, which is a laudable thing … Nothing has been set aside for the roads,” he said referring to the  $100 million in revenue the facility proposes to give to public and charter schools. He added that Gun Club and Quincy are two-lane roads with narrow shoulders. He said heavy traffic on the roads already makes it difficult for ambulances to navigate during emergencies. 

City documents show there would need to be $62 million worth of improvements made to Quincy, South Gun Club and South Harvest Roads in the next two years to accommodate potential traffic. Widening Gun Club would be one of the improvements. 

He said those costs would likely fall to the city as the race track sits in unincorporated Arapahoe County. “There’s no one to call on other than the city at large or the state,” he said. 

Councilwoman Molly Markert said she would like voters to decide for themselves whether to vote yes or no to the casino addition.  “I know there are huge impacts, but I’m OK with not having a resolution if it encourages people to ask the thoughtful questions we’ve all been through,” she said. 

Later in the evening, Aurora resident James Coleman said the city had waited too long to repair roads in south Aurora. He said the city had already built out the Aurora Reservoir, the Southlands shopping center and has  budgeted $25 million in 2015 for a new public safety training center for the police and fire departments, just north of Aurora Reservoir. 

“Let’s not blame the casino for it. Let’s build that road, and we’ll either have a casino or we simply won’t,” he said. 

Aside from 39 days a year — the maximum number of race days allowed under state law — the sprawling 400-acre, 10,000-seat horse-racing track near E-470 and East Quincy Avenue sits largely unused. Becky Brooks, a spokeswoman for Mile High Racing, which manages Arapahoe Park and 11 off-track betting facilities around the state, told the Sentinel last May the track is looking for ways to be a year-round attraction.