Colorado legalizes sports betting after surprisingly narrow vote

Denver skyline, November 2019
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Colorado became the 19th state to officially legalize sports wagering on Wednesday, pulling the backdoor cover after a surprisingly close vote.

Over 1.3 million Coloradans voted Tuesday on Proposition DD, a bipartisan measure that legalizes and taxes sports betting, the latter helping fund a state water conservation plan.

The vote was too close to call on Tuesday night. As returns from various precincts continued to roll in throughout the evening, the bill’s passage appeared very much in doubt.

The vote was so close that state officials needed another day to determine the results of the balloting. Proponents of the bill were relieved on Wednesday when the AP announced that Proposition DD passed by roughly 20,000 votes, or about 1.5%.

The path towards legalization in the Centennial State was a complicated one. Per Legal Sports Report, Colorado’s restrictive Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) law created unique challenges for the state legislature.

Lawmakers approved statewide sports betting this past spring, but elected to seek voter approval in order to satisfy its TABOR concerns, even though the state attorney general issued an opinion that a referendum was not needed.

Tuesday’s vote was a lot closer than anticipated, and that can be at least partly attributed to the wording on the ballot potentially confusing some voters. TABOR requirements allows for very little leeway in terms of how ballot language can be constructed.

The ballot read, in part: “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. …”

As such, it was reasonable to expect that a number of uninformed voters who glanced at the wording would focus more on the possibility of increased taxes. But Proposition DD cleared that obstacle and is officially a done deal.

Now that the law is officially passed, Colorado’s 33 casinos can offer both in-person and online wagering on both professional and collegiate sports beginning next May. A reasonable 10 percent tax is one of the most operator-friendly rates in the nation.

“Bringing sports betting into the daylight, regulating it, and leveraging it for the benefit of our water future is a common-sense approach,” House Minority Leader Patrick Neville told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m glad the voters agreed.”

Also read: BetIndiana to launch mobile sportsbook in Hoosier State

Thirteen states currently offer a legal, regulated sports betting industry while six more (including Colorado and Illinois) are close to launching after legalizing sports wagering in 2019.

USA Sports Gaming, the umbrella company of BetChicago and BetIndiana News, is eyeing other states to operate in after launching our mobile sportsbook in Indiana.

“We are keeping an eye on all of the states that are legalizing sports betting, and we would be open to doing business anywhere in the country. At this point, it looks like Colorado and Tennessee will be next to go live,” BetChicago Founder and President Frank Ignatius told U.S. Betting Report in October.

Betting on esports and high school games is banned under the Colorado law.

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