Less than one week after its introduction, a Colorado sports betting bill has already cleared the state’s House of Representatives.
On April 18, state representative Alec Garnett (D-2) – who serves as House Majority leader – introduced House Bill 1327, an act to “Authorize and Tax Sports Betting.”
Under the guidance of Garnett, HB-1327 was fast-tracked through the House via a 58-6-1 vote held on Wednesday. With the 65-seat Colorado House firmly in Democrat Party hands at 41-24, the vote showed bipartisan support for legal sports wagering.
The Colorado sports betting bill now heads to the Senate, where Democrats possess a slim 19-16 majority. There, it will face possible amendment ahead of a concurrence vote.
That vote must be held in a similarly quick timeframe as the House approval, though. That’s because the Colorado General Assembly concludes its regular session on May 3.
If the Senate does vote in favor of the Colorado sports betting bill, the matter would then be forwarded to voters via public referendum as a ballot question during the 2019 state elections.
Bill Sponsor Seeks Funds for Water Programs
In a press release announcing the successful House vote, Garnett offered several reasons to allow legal sports betting:
“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.”
In comments made to TheDenverChannel.com, Garnett was more pragmatic with his reasoning for HB-1327:
“This is sweeping the country”.
Garnett is referring to the sports betting “gold rush” occurring across America since May of last year, when the United States Supreme Court struck down a 27-year old federal ban on sportsbooks outside of Nevada.
In nearly a year since, seven states – Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island – have launched legal sportsbooks of the brick and mortar and/or online variety. Oregon, Arkansas, and Washington D.C. have also passed sports betting bills but their respective industries are not yet operational.
In the month of March alone, New Jersey sportsbooks generated $31.7 million in revenue sending over $3.7 million in tax revenue to Garden State government coffers.
New Jersey applies a tax of 8.5 percent on gross gaming revenue from land-based sportsbooks, and 13 percent for online operators. Using a similar 10 percent tax rate, HB-1327 is designed to generate up to $20 million annually for the state’s Water Implementation Cash Fund in support of the Colorado Water Plan.
Speaking to the local FOX-31 affiliate, Garnett provided a template for tax revenue growth as the state’s sports betting industry expands:
“On the low end, you’ll see the state generate between $5-10 million in tax revenue. And on the higher end, as the market continues to mature, I think it plateaus around $20 million. It is a sustainable resource that will go toward conservation and protecting our water, which is really important to both rural and urban parts of the state.”
Nuts and Bolts of Colorado Sports Betting Bill
If approved, HB-1327 would task the Department of Revenue, under supervision by the Limited Gaming Control Commission (LGCC), to approve license applications from prospective sports betting operators.
The state’s 33 casinos – located only in the remote towns of Central City, Black Hawk, and Cripple Creek by law – would be eligible to apply for a “master license.” Potential fees for the master license haven’t been finalized, but any master license holder would then be permitted to contract with licensed sportsbook operators and/or online platform providers.
David Farahi – chief operating officer of the Monarch Resort & Casino in Black Hawk – told TheDenverChannel.com that his venue has been anticipating sports betting integration since last May’s landmark Court ruling:
“We’ve been closely monitoring the Supreme Court case. It just opened the door for every state to legalize sports betting as they wished.”