Voters will decide the fate of Colorado sports betting this fall if Gov. Jared Polis signs a bill passed Friday by the state Senate.
The Senate approved H 1327, a sports betting bill referring to matter to the fall ballot on a 27-8 vote. The votes could wrap a whirlwind two-week trip through the state legislature for the CO sports betting bill.
Legal Sports Report offered the initial review of the Colorado sports betting bill last month. If the bill is signed and voters back it, sports betting in Colorado could be targeted for a 2020 launch.
Statewide mobile wagering would be possible under the terms of the legislation.
Colorado sports betting needs more backing
Introduced near the end of the legislative session, H 1327 works within the realities of Colorado’s political landscape. The Centennial State operates under a voter-approved Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), a device that requires tax increases to receive popular backing.
Colorado’s attorney general said last year that voter approval is not required to create sports betting:
“While Article XVIII, Section 2 imposes various restrictions on “lotteries,” commercial sports betting does not qualify as a lottery. The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that betting on horse and dog races is not a lottery, and there is no material difference between betting on horse and dog races and betting on other types of sporting events. Commercial sports betting therefore falls outside the restrictions in Article XVIII, Section 2.”
Legislators still chose the more cautious path of sending Colorado sports betting expansion to the ballot.
“I think it’s important to go back to the voters and make sure it’s something that they want,” said Rep. Cole Wist last year.
Deeper in the bill
The legislation would allow for three types of licenses:
- Master license
- Sports betting operator
- Internet sports betting operator
Colorado’s 33 casinos could each submit an application for a master license. What that two-year license for legal sports betting would cost remains to be determined.
Each casino could partner with a land-based operator and an internet operator (or use the same partner for both) and deploy one online/mobile platform.
The proposed tax rate of 10 percent falls on the more industry-friendly side of legislation introduced this year. Only esports and high school sports would be banned under the bill.
Colorado gaming is restricted to three remote mountain towns: Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek. The state historically opposes gaming expansion despite a somewhat liberal bent on other issues like marijuana legalization.