It’s March Madness, and that means millions of Americans, Coloradans included, are getting ready to fill out brackets wagering billions of dollars on college basketball games across the country. The problem is, sports wagering is still illegal in most of the states. However, there are efforts underway to legalize sports betting in Colorado in time for the state to capitalize on the next March Madness. Ever since last summer, after PASPA was overturned, Colorado state leaders have believed that 2020 was soonest sports betting could become legal. So far, everything points to that timeline.
State Reps Cole Wist (R-Centenniel) and Alec Garnett (D-Denver) want to have Colorado voters place votes on legal sports betting this year. Wist thinks it’s an easy decision to make:
“It seems to me like it’s a no-brainer. We should have the conversation to see if this is something we as a state want to do.”
However, he doesn’t want to push forward without support from voters:
“I think it’s important to go back to the voters and make sure it’s something that they want.”
Representative Alec Garnett (D-Denver) spoke with Fox31 about sports betting in Colorado:
“We’ve been working the last couple of months with stakeholders trying to build what a legal sports gambling framework would look like in Colorado.”
He says they’re not quite ready to reveal their plan, but it looks like Coloradans will be voting on a new sports gambling tax this November. A rough draft also showed that bettors will be permitted to place wagers using online and mobile apps
Contrary to what Reps Wist and Garnett believe, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says that sports betting is not banned under the state’s constitution, and the matter does not need to go to a vote. She issued a formal opinion on sports betting in August of 2018:
“While Article XVIII, Section 2 imposes various restrictions on “lotteries,” commercial sports betting does not qualify as a lottery. The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that betting on horse and dog races is not a lottery, and there is no material difference between betting on horse and dog races and betting on other types of sporting events. Commercial sports betting therefore falls outside the restrictions in Article XVIII, Section 2.”
Wist feels that voters should have a say, even if it might not be necessary.
The Republican candidate for Governor, Walker Stapleton, wants to regulate and tax sports betting. He is looking at a tax rate of 15 percent from operators, which could bring in a million dollars a year in tax revenue from sports betting. Whether that’s an accurate number or not, we won’t know until the state launches it sportsbooks. If sports gambling is approved in November, Colorado could have legal gambling as soon as the 2020 Super Bowl.
The Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada in May 2018. This opened it up to individual states to set their own laws and regulations on the activity. So far seven states plus the District of Columbia have fully operational sportsbooks. Two are about to launch their sportsbook, and over 25 states like Colorado are working on legislation.
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