Proposition DD Sports Betting Question Will Appear on Colorado Ballot in November

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:

  • If sports betting is approved, it will mark first major gambling expansion in Colorado since 2008

  • Proposition DD seeks to impose a 10 percent tax on persons licensed to conduct sports betting operations

  • Only Colorado’s three licensed casinos - Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek - would be permitted to offer sports wagering

  • Australian-owned Pointsbet has already inked a deal to offer retail and mobile sports betting at Cripple Creek

  • Currently, sports betting is only available to residents via offshore sportsbook sites and local bookmakers utilizing Pay Per Head platforms

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Colorado residents will be asked if they want legalized sports betting when they go to the voting booth this November.

Proposition DD would legalize, regulate and tax sports betting in the state.  It creates some new misdemeanors and felonies related to sports betting, but would only apply to those taking bets such as local bookmakers.  Criminal enforcement is expected to be rare.

The Colorado Sun reports that only 22 people were convicted of Colorado Gaming Act offenses in the last three years, and a state fiscal analysis only expects 10 new misdemeanor convictions and no new felonies a year if the referendum passes.

If approved, it would mark the first major expansion of gambling in Colorado since 2008.

Here’s what voters will be asked on the ballot:

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 net sports betting proceeds, and to impose the tax on persons licensed to conduct sports betting operations?

Politicians hope this 10 percent will be used to reduce funding shortfalls in the state’s water budget.

The voters might not care if operators are taxed, but what does it mean for actual gamblers?

There would be few limits placed on sports betting.  High school sports would be off limits however and prop bets (i.e. will a specific player score next) will be prohibited on college sports.

Only Colorado’s three licensed casinos - Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek - would be permitted to offer sports wagering.  These casinos would be able to partner with the likes of a Draftkings, FanDuel, William Hill and others that already offer the activity in states such as New Jersey.

It has been reported that Australian-owned Pointsbet, which also operates in the state of New Jersey, has linked up with The Double Eagle Hotel and Casino in Cripple Creek.

The company this summer announced it is opening a US headquarters in downtown Denver in October that will serve as its “western base of operations.”

The Double Eagle Hotel and Casino is an hour’s drive from Colorado Springs and about two hours away from Denver, the state’s largest city.

Mobile sports gambling is currently available statewide via a few dozen offshore sportsbooks.

But if Proposition DD passes, PointsBet and other state-licensed operators could offer mobile apps.

From Conor McCormick-Cavanagh of Westword:

Bettors will be able to set up mobile accounts with the casinos and then bet using their phones, regardless of whether they’re sitting on a couch, drinking at a bar, or sitting at Mile High Stadium watching a Broncos game.

How the casinos and mobile-application operators will work out paying the tax hasn’t been determined. If DD passes, the Department of Revenue’s Division of Gaming will hash out those rules.

Past history suggests the odds are against Prop DD, as pointed out by McCormick-Cavanagh:

Numerous attempts to expand gambling in Colorado have failed over the past twenty years. Some involved allowing limited-stakes gaming in other towns beyond the three mountain communities; others wanted to expand the kinds of gambling allowed. In 2003, for example, voters rejected an initiative to approve video gambling terminals at racetracks. In 2014 they rejected another ballot initiative that would have allowed Arapahoe Park to offer various forms of gambling beyond betting on horse races, with some revenue from the expansion earmarked for K-12 education in Colorado. It was an expensive campaign — totaling over $35 million — for both the opposition, which was largely funded by mountain town casinos.

Residents of Colorado will soon become acclimated to the prospects of legalized sports gambling. Television advertising for the campaign, funded by the mountain-town casinos, mobile betting-app companies and water-industry stakeholders, will begin appearing soon, Westword reports.

Aside from the convoluted legalese of the ballot question, there is limited opposition from environment groups that could further sway voters against Prop DD.  Gary Wockner, an environmentalist, has already registered his opposition under Coloradans for Climate Justice.  The concerns are that future water infrastructure projects could harm the environment rather than help it.  It is unclear how aggressive this group will be in spreading their message.

"I have opposed the Colorado Water Plan for years now because it supports new dams and diversions. It’s that simple."

He is working with fellow environmentalists like Dan Beard, who erved as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation under the Clinton administration.

“Dams are the dinosaurs of the water world. They are a 19th-century solution to a 21st-century problem."

Wockner believes that fossil fuel corporations should pay for environmental-restoration issues in Colorado.

“I fully realize that this tax is on sports betting,” he says, “but it sets the precedent that the taxpayer and the public should have to pay for climate damage, and that is completely unjust.”

McCormick-Cavanagh says passage of Prop DD will depend on how voters feel about Colorado’s water situation, whether they understand that the tax is simply a sin tax that won’t affect most Coloradans, how they feel about sports betting...and perhaps how they feel about sports in general.

- Alejandro Botticelli,

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