Voters get crack at sports gambling

FILE - In this March 21, 2019, file photo, gamblers line up to place bets on the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City N.J. This is the first March Madness tournament since legal gambling expanded last year in the U.S. The spread of legalized sports betting is largely following regional boundaries. Lawmakers across the Northeast and upper Midwest have generally approved it or are still considering doing so this year. But in the Deep South and far West, fewer states are rushing in a year after the US Supreme Court cleared the way for legal sports betting nationally. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File)

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting more than a year ago, states have been scrambling with what to do about the matter.

While a handful of states have already legalized it, others haven't even considered the idea. Here in Colorado, however, it will be up to the voters to decide.

In November, those voters will weigh in on Proposition DD, placed on the ballot by a group of lawmakers in the Colorado Legislature from both sides of the political aisle, some of whom say the activity will go on illegally anyway if the state doesn't legalize, regulate and tax it.

Opponents say the measure places few restrictions on sports betting, and few of the tax revenues it would generate are adequate enough to address gambling addiction services.

The measure would allow Coloradans to bet on just about any sporting event, from the Olympics to the National Football League to motor sports events.

Under it, the Colorado Division of Gaming and the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission would oversee the activity. Both currently oversee the state's casinos, which were approved by voters in a 1991 amendment for three Colorado towns: Cripple Creek, Central City and Blackhawk.

The proposition would grant sports betting licenses to casinos in those towns, allowing them to contract with an online or mobile phone provider.

Not only would those providers pay an annual fee to obtain their license, but they also would collect a 10% tax on net sports betting proceeds, which is expected to be about $29 million a year, at least in the beginning.

Some of that money would be used to pay administrative costs of regulating the activity, with another block of money — about $130,000 — going to fund gambling addiction services. Another $1.7 million would be set aside in a "Hold Harmless Fund," a pile of money that existing gambling establishments, such as casinos and horse racing tracks, can apply for as a grant if they can show they lost money because of sports betting.

The remainder would go to fund state water projects, most specifically, those identified as needed under the Colorado Water Plan.

That plan was developed in 2017 under then-Gov. John Hickenlooper. Among other things, it sets a goal of finding an additional 400,000 acre feet of water storage capacity, and conserving the same amount, all by 2050. An acre foot of water is about 326,000 gallons, or enough to supply a family of four for about a year.

To get there, the plan anticipates the state will need to start spending about $100 million a year on water projects starting in 2020, or a total of about $3 billion by 2050.

Opponents of the ballot question say it won't raise enough money to cover that, and it isn't specific about on which projects the money would be spent.

Supporters, however, say that while that may be true, it at least helps to achieve goals set forth in the plan.

To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting, while 24 other states have or are considering it. Legislatures in eight other states, including Utah and Wyoming, haven't yet considered the idea, according to the American Gaming Association.

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