A lodging tax that would add a 6 percent daily charge on Cripple Creek hotel rooms was headed to vicotry Tuesday in the gambling town west of Colorado Springs, where several hotel projects are in the works.
The tax was winning by a 60 percent-to-40 percent margin, according to unofficial results compiled by the Teller County Clerk & Recorder's Office.
If those results holds, the tax would take effect Jan. 1 and authorize Cripple Creek to collect up to $600,000 in the first year of the tax, along with additional amounts if revenues grow, said City Administrator Ray DuBois. City officials estimate the first-year take would be $200,000 to $250,000, he said. There is no sunset clause on the tax.
The Cripple Creek City Council put the measure on Tuesday's ballot to help fund city operations. Since 2008, Cripple Creek has seen a steady decline in revenue from the town's gaming industry, DuBois said. Colorado voters approved limited-stakes gaming in Cripple Creek and two other Colorado towns in 1990.
Lodging taxes are common around the country; Colorado Springs has had a 2 percent levy on hotel rooms since 1980, while Denver has a 10.75 percent tax. Local governments rely on lodging taxes because they're mainly paid by out-of-towners and tourists - not area residents.
Despite a steady increase in hotel rooms since the advent of casino gambling, Cripple Creek didn't have a lodging tax and voters had rejected two previous ballot proposals in recent years.
Unlike previous measures, Tuesday's proposal spelled out how the money would be spent - for economic and community development, tourism and marketing, DuBois said.
That ballot language was crafted by the City Council with input from local residents. The collaborative effort likely helped win support from voters, he said.
"That was key, working with the community and developing the ballot language and the specifics," DuBois said.
Also, unlike a previous proposal, the new 6 percent measure will not be applied to free rooms provided to hotel guests. Casino hotels - from Cripple Creek to Las Vegas to Atlantic City - routinely provide complimentary rooms to their best patrons.
Several local business people supported the measure, along with the Cripple Creek Gaming Association, which represents gambling interests, DuBois said.
The tax will be applied to hotel and motel rooms, bed and breakfasts and recreational vehicle pads - among other spaces - where users stay for less than 30 consecutive days. The city estimates there are 400 to 420 spaces where the tax will be applied, with most of them casino hotel rooms, DuBois said.
More rooms are on the way, however.
This week, the company that owns Bronco Billy's Casino & Hotel in Cripple Creek announced plans to build a 150-room, upscale hotel connected to the gaming hall. Three other casino operators also have announced plans that could bring another 260 rooms; those projects are in various stages of development.
In the race for Cripple Creek City Council, Ward 5 candidates Jeff Regester and Melissa ''Missie'' Trenary - both newcomers - were tied with 63 votes, according to unofficial results.
In Cripple Creek's Ward 4, Meghan Rozell was beating Scott A. Marshall by a 65 percent-to-35 percent margin.