If it were just up to the politicians, sports betting would already be legal by now in Colorado, or so it would seem. House Bill 1327, which would sanction sports betting, easily passed votes in the Colorado House of Representatives and Senate appropriations committees.
But really, the voters of Colorado will have the final say on the matter, most likely in November.
Tax System Complicates Colorado Sports Wagering
Colorado is not an easy state in which to approve new taxes. Under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) amendment to the state’s constitution, the question must be put to a full vote. Based on wide bipartisan support for the bill, and provisions built in which would address concerns of advocates for funding of problem gambling, it would seem to have an excellent chance of winning and become law in May 2020.
The bill would tax revenue from sports betting at a 10-percent rate, with the majority going to fund the state’s water plan and $130,000 annually to the state’s Office of Behavioral Health to address problem gambling.
Importantly, the bill would provide not only master licenses to casinos and sportsbooks, but additional licenses for online betting.
“We know people are betting on sports. We know there are apps that people are using that are routed through places like Shanghai and the Cayman Islands. And second, we want to look at the models from other states to create a marketplace that's competitive, but not so large that the Department of Revenue can't regulate it effectively."
Colorado’s Casinos Concentrated in Mountainous Region
Colorado has 33 casinos, all set in the mountain towns of Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City. Each casino could obtain two-year licenses for physical sportsbooks and a separate online operating license.
As someone who has lived in Colorado for 28 years, I think the bill is a cinch to be approved by the voters, and here’s why: Colorado is a sports-crazy place, and the people don’t mind a tax if it goes toward having a little fun. A good sin tax doesn’t hurt anyone, the thinking goes here.
Also, having the majority of the tax revenue going to water plans will be a good sell in this landlocked, often parched state. The state’s farmers have seen their margins squeezed by frequent drought in recent years, and new money to address water conservation could be a real boon. And don’t forget, this is one of the first states that legalized recreational marijuana.
A provisional tax that would have expanded casinos to racetracks was voted down by voters in 2014. Garnett told Westword that initial revenue projections for the state from a sports betting measure would be a rather modest $4 million the first year, but reach upward of $20 million a year.
Rocky Mountain State is Sports Crazy
The Colorado state legislature adjourns Friday, and the bill still must pass a roll-call vote in the House and Senate, but that is expected to be a formality at this point. When/if that happens, it will be left up to the voters to decide in November, and anything to do with sports in this town usually wins.
The NBA’s Denver Nuggets and NHL’s Colorado Avalanche are both in the second round of the playoffs at the same time – for the first time ever – the Colorado Rockies made the MLB playoffs last year and the Denver Broncos remain a topic of conversation 24/7 here.