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Colorado voters deciding if the state should allow gambling on sports

Posted: 5:48 PM, Oct 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-31 00:55:02-04
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Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com . See more 360 stories here.

DENVER -- Colorado voters are currently deciding if sports betting will become legal in our state.

The measure being put forward in the ballot reads as follows:

SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED BY TWENTY-NINE MILLION DOLLARS ANNUALLY TO FUND STATE WATER PROJECTS AND COMMITMENTS AND TO PAY FOR THE REGULATION OF SPORTS BETTING THROUGH LICENSED CASINOS BY AUTHORIZING A TAX ON SPORTS BETTING OF TEN PERCENT OF THE NET SPORTS BETTING PROCEEDS, AND TO IMPOSE THE TAX ON PERSONS LICENSED TO CONDUCT SPORTS BETTING OPERATIONS?

If voters vote yes, Colorado will become the 12th state to legalize sports betting. Currently, Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware currently allow citizens to bet on sports. Nationwide, a total of 42 states have or are currently seriously considering the legalization of sports betting.

The ballot language estimates that if approved, Proposition DD will produce $290 million in profit to the state’s casinos from sports wagers. That means sports betters in the state would lose $290 million in bets and that loss would produce $29 million each year for the state’s water fund.

While voters are deciding to vote yes or no, we're offering multiple perspectives to help guide your decision making. Our review of the issues includes interviews with Colorado’s House Majority Leader who helped “quarterback” the issue through the state legislature, a chief operating officer of a Black Hawk casino, as well as the former director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board — all who are in favor of Proposition DD. We’ve also interviewed opponents of the proposition including a state senator and the president of the state’s problem gambling coalition.

OFFSHORE GAMBLING ALREADY PROFITING FROM COLORADO RESIDENTS

“We know there is a robust market, we know people are already betting across the state through offshore apps right now,” said House Majority Leader Alec Garnett. Garnett was credited as one of the driving forces to get the proposition before voters. “Other states are doing it,” Garnett added, “this is a no brainer. Let’s come together, let’s figure this out.” The House Majority Leader concluded, “What is the right fit for Colorado? I think what we came out with is the right fit for Colorado.”

STATE’S WATER PLAN WOULD BENEFIT FROM NEW TAXES

“It couldn’t be overstated how important this is for Colorado,” said James Eklund, the former Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. If voters approve, Proposition DD will help fund the state’s recently approved water plan.

“Proposition DD puts some money in the place that is should be,” added Eklund, who is a strong supporter of the proposition. He acknowledges that the revenue produced from Prop. DD, if approved, will not completely fund the state’s water plan.

“It won’t solve it by itself. It is not a silver bullet. I would be lying to you if I sat here and said it was. It’s incredibly important that we do this, that we enact proposition DD, but reality it's... you could call it, the proverbial ‘drop in the bucket,’" Eklund concluded.

CASINO EXECUTIVE CONCERNED BALLOT LANGUAGE WILL CONFUSE VOTERS

“The biggest challenge to sports betting passing, frankly, is a misunderstanding of the ballot language,” said David Farahi, the Chief Operating Officer of Black Hawk’s Monarch Casino-Spa. “The ballot language is a bit confusing,” Farahi added.

The respected casino executive is referring to the beginning of the ballot language that includes, “SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED.” Farahi’s concern centers on the recent history of Colorado voters. Last year, when propositions for increased funding for education and roads began with that language, Colorado voters rejected the proposals.

“Almost every time Coloradans have been asked a question that starts with ‘shall taxes be raised,’ Farahi added, “they’ve said no and they don’t even read the rest of the ballot question.” He believes the success of proposition DD depends on voters choosing to read the entire ballot language. “It really depends on if voters take the time to understand what DD is asking them.”

OPPONENTS CONCERNED ABOUT GAMBLING IMPACT ON COLORADANS

“I think it makes it way too easy,” said Colorado State Senator Larry Crowder. He has not put together an organized opposition, but has voiced his concerns on Proposition DD. “I do not believe we, as a government, should be promoting gambling,” he added.

One concern raised by the senator and others is the easy access gamblers will have to placing bet’s through smart phone apps. The proposition limits sports betting to smart phone apps and on-sight wagers at casinos in Colorado’s three mountain gaming towns of Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk. “The biggest concern I have is with people with the availability of the iPhone blowing their paycheck on a gambling deal,” Crowder added. “I think it makes it way too easy, I don’t think there is a balance there.”

CONCERNS RAISED AT IMPACT ON GAMBLING ADDICTION

“The costs to society for untreated gambling disorders is huge,” said Larry Wall, the President of Colorado’s Problem Gambling Coalition. His group stands to receive more than $100,000 each year from the proceeds collected from sports betting. But Wall says that’s not enough to deal with a problem that is already much larger than many realize. “In Colorado, we estimate over 101,000 active gamblers that are in active addiction right now that have not given up gambling,” said Wall.

FINAL THOUGHTS

“I’m hopeful the Colorado voter takes the time to do the research and they come to the conclusion they should pass this,” said House Majority Leader Garnett.

“I think if they take that time and realize that this tax is only on the people placing bets on sports and legalizes something that is currently being done illegally,” said Casino exec Farahi, “I think they'll pass it."