Colorado Will Need to Clear Some Hurdles to Legal Sports Betting
Legal Sports Report

Lawmakers Start Eyeing Legal Colorado Sports Betting For Next Year

Colorado sports betting preview

The action will not start until next year, but expect Colorado sports betting to become a hot topic in 2019.

With state legislators from both parties already advocating for Colorado sports betting, a legislative push next year appears likely. Democratic Assemblyman Alec Garnett and Republican Assemblyman Cole Wist told Colorado Public Radio they will work toward legal sports wagering.

“I think the best way is to come together, let’s figure out what we believe is the right balance, and go ask voters, ‘do we think this is going to work?’” Garnett said to CPR.

Do not expect a quick or easy green light, though. Colorado law places major restrictions on the location of casinos and on what would need to happen to change the statute.

What could happen in Colorado next year

Colorado sports betting is a lock for serious discussion at the state legislature in the 2019 session. Garnett will make sure of that by using one of his bill requests to advance the issue with his colleagues:

This means Garnett is using one of five bills available to him to work on Colorado sports betting. Putting the matter before the legislature, however, is just one small step on a long road to single-game wagering.

The current legislative landscape in Colorado

Colorado voters approved a narrowly defined state constitutional amendment 26 years ago that brings non-tribal gambling to three small towns. Casinos exist only in the outlying Colorado communities of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. The two closest cities lie more than 30 miles outside central Denver on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.

Some legislators believe that amendment would not prevent them from legalizing Colorado sports betting on their own. Others feel voters would need to weigh in again, and the state attorney general is expected to issue an opinion.

If it needs to go back in front of voters, two-thirds of legislators must approve a voter referendum. That question then would go on the ballot in Colorado, with the 2019 election being the earliest possible date. Even without the need for a referendum, starting from scratch in mid-2019 appears ambitious.

Given those realities, do not expect to place a bet on the Broncos in Denver any sooner than the start of 2020.

The state was one of the earliest adopters of formally regulating daily fantasy sports back in 2016.

Political opposition will exist

The Colorado Gaming Association already signaled intent to protect the interests of the three approved gaming towns as well. Peggi O’Keefe, executive director of the association, wants the communities to be the only potential homes of Colorado sports betting.

“I think this is something we want to make sure doesn’t pop up on every street corner or in people’s backyards,” O’Keefe told KRDO.

What about mobile betting?

Colorado winters can see vicious storms that limit travel on any given day. With that in mind, Garnett plans to look closely at the potential for mobile wagering.

“If something happens on Sunday morning, a weather system moves in and the Broncos are going to be playing in 6 inches of snow, the line’s going to move,” Garnett said. “It would be unrealistic to expect somebody to drive up to Black Hawk or Central City and change that bet that they made a couple of days before.”

Adam Candee
- Adam Candee covers sports business and news from Las Vegas. Adam is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, Arizona Daily Sun and KLAS-TV.