Colorado is set to become the most recent state to legalize sports betting — with a ballot referendum putting the issue directly to its citizens. Voters head to the polls Tuesday, and one of the issues on the ballot is Proposition DD, which would establish legal sports wagering as a means of funding the state’s emergent water needs. Polling suggests the measure will pass with bipartisan support.

Colorado sports betting referendum
Colorado will vote on legalizing sports betting on Nov. 5. (Image:

Unlike some states considering legal sports betting, Colorado already has casino gambling and a gaming commission to oversee the addition of new betting options. If it passes, Proposition DD authorizes the commission to write new rules allowing the state’s 33 current casino licensees to accept sports bet. Officials would have until May 2020 to complete the regulations.

Text of Proposition DD

“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?” (Colorado House Bill 1327)

The Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights requires the words “shall taxes be increased” on all voter referendums that call for new taxes. Despite the fact that the 10 percent tax will be levied on the proceeds of the casinos not on the citizens.

Proponents of the bill contend that while the phrasing is unfortunate, enough voter education has been done to assure passage of the proposition.

Where to Bet on Sports in Colorado

There are currently 33 casinos in Colorado, located in three mountain towns — Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek. All of these facilities will be able to offer sports betting possibly as soon as late summer or early fall of 2020.

Expansion beyond those casinos is unlikely. A vote in 2014 to expand gambling beyond those three destinations failed by more than 70 percent, which is why proposition DD establishes sports betting only in those current casino jurisdictions.

Proposition DD would authorize casinos to offer both online sports betting and mobile app gaming options. There are already phone apps available in the state in anticipation of sports betting approval.

“I have the apps already downloaded on my phone,” Democratic House Leader Alec Garnett told the Denver Post. Garnett co-sponsored the bill referring the question of sports betting to the voters.

Ballot Statement in Support for Proposition DD

The purpose of allowing sports betting, according to its supporters, is to fund the state’s water needs in the future. According to the ballot statement in support of the initiative:

“Colorado’s population is expected to double by 2060 and, at current usage rates, our water supply will not keep up with that growth. With these pressures mounting, it is critical that we conserve and protect our water resources to ensure that there is enough water for everyone. Proposition DD implements a $29 million tax on casinos’ sports-betting proceeds to fund a systematic and bipartisan effort to preserve Colorado’s water future. The vast majority of the proceeds, 93 percent in all, will be used as a down payment to fund ‘Colorado’s Water Plan’. Proposition DD uses proceeds from a tax on casino sports betting to protect and conserve our water resources.”

It appears that Colorado will be joining the growing list of states that have authorized legal sports betting.