When voters in Colorado head to the ballots on November 5, the fate of sports betting legalization will rest in their hands. Thanks to a bill passed by the state General Assembly and signed by Governor Jared Polis back in May, voters will decide on a sports betting regulation and taxation measure dubbed Proposition DD.
Typically, a state legislature’s passage of a sports betting bill would be enough to legalize the industry. But under an amendment to the Colorado state Constitution known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), any law proposing to levy new taxes must be approved by voters via ballot referendum.
If authorized by Proposition DD, House Bill 1327 would assess licensed sportsbook operators with a 10 percent tax on gross gaming revenue. The legislation limits the pool of potential licensed operators to the 33 brick and mortar casinos located in three mountain towns – Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek.
Licensed land-based operators would then be permitted to partner with third-party bookmakers and technology platforms to offer online / mobile wagering from anywhere in the state.
Taxes generated by regulated sports betting – which lawmakers estimate will reach $20 million annually in a mature market – are slated for the Water Implementation Cash Fund in support of the state’s Colorado Water Plan.
State representative and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett (D-2) was HB-1327’s primary sponsor, and in just five years as a lawmaker, he’s already had success with sports gambling legislation.
In 2016, Garnett was a co-sponsor of the bill which brought regulated daily fantasy sports (DFS) to the Centennial State.
As he told the Denver Westword in a recent interview, Garnett’s desire to bring regulated sports gambling to his home state stems from his passion for sports:
“I don’t think it’s any secret – I’m a huge Broncos fan.
I like sports, and I had worked on other legislation that had to do with money in sports, and I wasn’t afraid of the issue.”
As part of a press release issued in April when HB-1327 was introduced, Garnett framed his support in terms of both sports fandom and water conservation:
“Coloradans should have the option of betting on the Nuggets in the playoffs or the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup.
This funding will go toward our most precious resource – our water and this is something everyone can get behind.
It is our hope that this measure will help stamp out black market sports betting.”
State representative Tom Sullivan (D-37) was the lone member on either the House or Senate Finance committees to vote against HB-1327.
But as he told the Denver Westword, that wasn’t because he objects to legal sports betting in principle – Sullivan simply wants to see brick and mortar sportsbooks operating anywhere in the three mountain towns:
“I love to bet. I was born in Las Vegas. I’ve gone to watch the last 28 Super Bowls in Las Vegas.
“(But) we should have local places that can do it. I’m just a little worried about everything being online.
My whole aspect of it is going with friends and having a beer and eating some wings and watching the games. That’s what the whole thing is about.”
Despite that sullen take from Sullivan, states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania consistently count on the online / mobile sports betting vertical for the vast majority of their monthly revenue haul.