DENVER – The ballot measure to legalize sports gambling in the state and to tax casino proceeds from the sportsbooks at 10% to pay for the Colorado water plan narrowly passed after more votes were counted Wednesday.
The Associated Press called the race around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Out of 1,404,782 votes counted, the measure was winning 50.71% to 49.29% and by approximately 20,000 votes.
Those figures came after a rollercoaster of an evening in which it both led and trailed multiple times. Colorado mandates that races that are separated by 0.5 percentage points can face a recount. In order to be approved, the measure had to get 50% of yes votes, plus one vote.
Colorado now will join at least 11 other states that have legalized sports gambling, and there are a slew of other states considering legislation.
Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek voters all on Tuesday passed municipal questions authorizing sports betting at the casinos there, opening the door for casino sportsbooks there now that DD has passed.
The measure was referred to this year’s November ballot by state lawmakers and was cosponsored by House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver and House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock. Estimates show the legalized gambling at casinos and through phone apps could eventually bring in $290 million in profit per year, producing $29 million annually for the water fund that needs to raise $3 billion.
That money would come from a 10% flat tax on the betting proceeds, though any casinos operating sportsbooks will set their own limits on bets. Legislative fiscal estimates show that sports betting could produce $11 million in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The bipartisan proponents had hoped that Coloradans will continue to approve taxes on things formerly illegal – as they did with marijuana – in order to help pay for state programs and to pull sports gambling in the state off the black market.
The state Division of Gaming will regulate the gambling and has until next May to come up with the rules on how the program will get off the ground, how it will operate, and how it will ensure that those who are gambling are of the legal age.
People will be able to gamble through the apps or at any of the 33 casinos in Colorado that decide to operate a sports book. They will be able to gamble on professional, most college, Olympic and motor sports.
The Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the Division of Gaming and Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission, said in a news release Thursday that the Division of Gaming has been reviewing other states’ models and will use that information and stakeholder input to develop the state’s rules.
“The Division of Gaming has been ramping up for the possible passage of Proposition DD by setting the groundwork for implementing best practices learned from other states that already conduct sports betting, while keeping in mind the unique needs and wants of the Colorado gaming landscape and industry,” said Dan Hartman, the director for the Division of Gaming. “We look forward to continuing to work with our gaming industry partners to establish responsible standards for sports betting, as they endeavor to bring the highest-quality content to the sports bettor.”
Lawmakers who support the measure said it would bring money into the state that was already going elsewhere through offshore gambling. The former director of the state Water Conservation Board staunchly supported the measure, as did some casino operators, though they voiced concern the ballot language might scare off some voters.
Some lawmakers and anti-gambling advocates said they had concerns about the ease at which people would be able to gamble once the system goes online and said that it could be a slippery slope to lead more people to gambling addiction.
Voters rejected the other 2019 statewide ballot measure referred by lawmakers, Proposition CC, by about 11%.
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