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Arcade fight continues in Colorado, as lawmakers eye do-over on 2015 gambling law

Author: Joey Bunch - February 4, 2018 - Updated: February 3, 2018

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KRDO’s Bart Bedsole took a close look at games of skill versus gambling for a series on the Colorado Springs TV station. (Photo courtesy of KRDO via screen grab)

Colorado Politics has been telling you for months a fight over quarters and skills is brewing in a triangle of small-time arcade operators, corporate chains and cops working under a vague state law served up by the legislature three years ago.

It appears lawmakers will get involved again this year.

Colorado Politics has seen a draft of a bill yet to be introduced that would extend the state law on gambling devices. Not only would it affect smaller arcades that offer prizes, but chains such as Dave & Busters and Chuck E. Cheese’s — and possibly winning a Teddy bear at the county fair, the way it’s currently written.

A prize, under the bill as it’s drafted would be “a thing of value for a gain” and remove the word “sweepstakes” from the law. The legislation also would amend the meanings of “electronic gaming machine,” “gambling” and “simulated gambling device.”

Under current law, the cash or prizes handed out at arcades are different from the action on a casino floor (though broke is broke, whether you lose in either).

Arcades award cash or prizes based on the skill of the player with a joystick. Slot machines rely on sheer luck, contends the Colorado Skill Games & Entertainment Association.

A series of raids at small Front Range arcades — and, so far, no successful prosecutions — has the trade group crying foul over  selective enforcement, pointing to similar games with prizes at corporate chains such as Dave & Busters.

Last week KRDO’s Bart Bedsole skillfully framed the issue:

Players insert cash into rows of what appear to be slot machines at first glance, but owner Trey Franzoy says they’re not.

“If you’ve ever played a regular slot machine, you can just hit play. It will spin and stop and give you whatever you won. It’s just a pure game of chance. Whoever hit ‘Play’ at that particular moment time is the player that’s going to win. The way our games are different is they are a pattern recognition game. You’re having to pick the winning pattern. Nothing is going to be given to you,” he explained.

You can watch the first part of Bedsole’s series, “Slots or Not?,” by clicking here.

Franzoy, who operates Charlie Chedda’s in Colorado Springs, was raided and arrested in 2015, on the charge of  “unlawful offering of a simulated gambling device.”

The legislature passed the law in 2015 to curb online sweepstakes at internet cafes.

But when it was tested in court in Franznoy’s case, it didn’t cut the legal muster, as a judged tossed out the case and called the law “unconstitutionally vague.” Teh legislation was aimed specifically at “Internet sweepstakes cafes,” however, not specifically where you pretend to fish with a joystick.

Enter the anti-gambling members of the General Assembly to try again.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.