Bill Would Legalize Sports Betting in Colorado, But Needs Voter Approval

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Colorado lawmakers are considering asking voters to legalize sports gambling and allow the state to collect taxes on the activity.

The proposal is a tough sell with less than two weeks to go in the legislative session, but it’s backed by House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock.

House Bill 1327 would put a measure on the ballot in November asking voters to approve a 10 percent tax on sports betting proceeds through licensed casinos in the state. The tax revenue would be placed in a Sports Betting Fund that would help fund water projects in the state.

In-person and online betting would be restricted to those 21 and older in the state.

The bill has moved quickly through the House, being introduced Friday, approved by the finance committee on Monday, and the appropriations committee on Tuesday. It’s scheduled to be heard on the House floor Wednesday.

Voters must approve the tax as a ballot measure because of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment.

In 2014, Colorado voters shot down a ballot measure that would have used revenues from expanded horse racetrack gambling to fund education.

The bill’s fiscal note estimates the measure would increase state revenue by $5.7 million to $5.9 million in 2019-20; $9.6 million to $11.1 million in 2020-21; and $13.5 million to $15.2 million in 2021-22.

"Coloradans should have the option of betting on the Rockies in the World Series or the Avs in the Stanley Cup. Voters support funding to protect our water and this will help them do their part," Garnett said in a statement. "Our outdoor economy depends on access to water and healthy rivers and this will help generate much-needed funding for the Colorado Water Plan. And it is our hope that this measure will help stamp out black market sports betting."

The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Municipal League, the Colorado River District, and the Environmental Defense Action Fund are among the groups supporting the legislation, according to House Democrats.

Online fantasy sports giant DraftKings is running ads in the state to urge support for mobile sports betting.