DENVER -- Following the Supreme Court’s decision striking down an anti-sports betting law, states across the country are trying to figure out what to do now. Colorado is no exception.
The decision itself did not legalize sports betting. It simply said that it wasn’t in the federal government’s power to ban states from having it, meaning it’s now up to the states.
So how could Colorado legalize sports betting?
According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees all gaming in the state, “Title 18 specifically states that gambling on sports is illegal, an expansion of gambling beyond what is permitted by the constitution would require legislative action and a vote of the people.”
Since the state legislature just finished their summer session, a new law couldn’t be put into effect until January. The deadline for this coming November’s ballot has passed, so it would have to go to the voters in 2019. That means the earliest sports betting could be legalized is the end of 2019.
A report by industry group Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimated that Colorado would be among the 14 states to pass sports betting within two years. The fact that the state has oversight and gambling infrastructure already in place could help make that happen.
Where would sports gambling be legal?
Colorado has three municipalities to currently allow casino gambling: Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek. A state law was passed to allow this, as well as a vote of the people in the early 90s. They could allow sports betting with a similar law and vote.
Other cities would have to do the same. Have a state law passed and a vote of the entire state to approve it. The Colorado Gaming Association, which represents many of the state’s casinos, say that isn’t likely, citing past votes on attempted gambling elsewhere in the state.
“Every other entity that has tried it has failed miserably,” Peggi O’Keefe of the Association said. “Voters in Colorado really like to have gambling in the mountain towns and not on every street corner, not in their backyard.”
The City Manager of Black Hawk echoed those thoughts to Denver7, saying he would support sports betting in town but preferred that it stay in Colorado’s three gambling communities.
That could have something to do with the amount of revenue sports betting could bring to the state.
The same group that said Colorado could offer betting within two years also estimated it to potentially be a $16 billion industry nationwide. And that comes with tax revenue.
In 2016, Colorado casinos made more than $810 million in gambling revenue. Currently, the Department of Revenue collects up to 20 percent of casino gambling profits off the top, which amounted to $117 million in 2016.
That money goes to pay for community colleges, historic preservation, and the remainder stays in the communities that its spent in.
“I would imagine that would be similarly set up for sports gambling,” O’Keefe said.