Colorado Could Hydrate Water Budget With Sports Gambling Revenue

Posted on: July 10, 2019, 06:25h. 

Last updated on: July 10, 2019, 06:25h.

Colorado voters will decide on a ballot initiative this fall that could bring legal sports wagering to the state and although that revenue has not started rolling in, politicians have already identified a use for it.

The gaming floor of the Ameristar Black Hawk in Colorado could be home to sports betting next year. (Image:

The state’s legislature, which is majority controlled by Democrats, and Gov. Jared Polis, also a Democrat, previously signed into law a bill that puts Proposition DD on the fall 2019 ballot. That initiative gives voters there the opportunity to decide the fate of sports betting in the Centennial State.

If passed, Prop DD would levy a 10 percent tax on sports bets and Colorado politicians are hoping that revenue stream could shore up shortfalls in the state’s water plan. Currently, the state is short about $100 million annually for its water budget.

The realities that Colorado’s budget is that it’s often hard to find dollars for projects that have the size and scope of water,” said state Sen. Kerry Donovan (D) in an interview with E&E News.

Previously proposed legislation that was backed by the Colorado House’s majority and minority leaders would allow the 17 operators of the state’s 33 casinos to apply for sports gaming licenses. If approved, the gaming providers could open brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and could eventually work with partners to offer mobile and online sports betting.

In addition to tribal gaming properties, Colorado is home to casinos run by companies such as Century Casinos, Monarch Casino & Resort, Eldorado Resorts and Penn National Gaming.

Substantial Water Needs

Colorado has 5.69 million residents, up from 4.43 million at the start of this century, and by some estimates, the state’s population could almost double by 2060. That creates significant water needs.

Efforts to address those water demands were initiated in 2013 former Gov. John Hickenlooper, now one of the Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls. A $20 billion plan to firm the state’s water resources through 2050 was finalized almost four years ago, but shortfalls remain.

“As is the case with other Western states, Colorado does not have enough water to meet historic and future uses in a balanced manner without a collaborative plan of action,” according to the state’s water plan.

Adding to Colorado’s pressing water demands is the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy. There are about 34,000 farms there that combine to employ nearly 175,000 workers, driving approximately $40 billion in annual economic output.

Maybe A Good Bet

Geographically speaking, Colorado’s effort to legalize sports betting could prove fruitful. Of the seven states bordering Colorado, only New Mexico has embraced sports wagering.

Politicians in Colorado previously said operators would be able to set limits for sports wagers, which is a departure from the current caps on table game stakes. Table game limits only go up to $100 due to a clause in the state constitution.

Policymakers in the state believe sports betting could generate $10 million to $20 million per year in revenue. By Colorado law, voters must decide on the issue because the excise the state is looking to place on sports bets is akin to a tax increase, all of which must be approved by voters there.