Colorado on the Brink of Sports Betting Legalization

With many states either opening their legalized sportsbooks recently or having relevant bills in the works, it is an exciting time for this burgeoning sector. The latest state that appears to be making moves in this regard is Colorado.

History of gambling in Colorado

Colorado has an interesting history when it comes to gambling, with various immigrant groups bringing their own versions of games when they ventured west in the 19th century.

It is widely believed that America’s first casino was located in Colorado. Brown’s Saloon opened in 1822 and was located at the border area that connects Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.

Colorado didn’t launch its state lottery until 1983. Powerball was allowed in 2001, with Mega Millions arriving in 2010. Since 2016 Colorado has also allowed the Lucky for Life game.

In 1991 casino gambling was legalized, but only in historic towns such as Central City, Cripple Creek and Black Hawk.

Certain restrictions were implemented as part of this new law, such as a maximum betting stake of $5 and players having to be at least 21 years old in order to play. The law was only just passed, as 41% of registered voters were against the proposed bill.

State compacts were signed in 1995 with the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain tribes that gave them the ability to operate casinos in an independent fashion, meaning that state regulation and oversight would not be needed. These casinos also received a tax exemption as part of the compact, but still only certain types of games are allowed at there.

Charity games such as raffles and bingo have been allowed since 1999 once they receive the relevant licenses. In 2008 Amendment 50 was passed, which gave the historic casino towns the ability to make changes to regulations in a manner in which they saw fit.

This culminated in the maximum stake per bet being increased to $100. Roulette and craps were also introduced, joining blackjack and poker, with the previous curfew of 2am being lifted, which meant that these casinos could open all day and all night.

Colorado sports betting imminent?

Walker Stapleton, a Republican candidate in Colorado, is adamant that sports betting will be legalized in the state in the very near future.

He is pushing for the implementation of a tax on these wagers, with the proceeds to be used to fix bridges and roads in the state, many of which are in desperate need of repair.

While it is not known if he also is in favor of having online gambling legalized, Stapleton is adamant about his idea of using the proceeds of sports betting to help invest in vital capital infrastructure in the area.

Sports gambling is still illegal in Colorado, but is unlikely to be the case for very long. A sports betting bill is likely to be put before the upcoming legislative session in 2019 and seriously considered.

Other state Representatives such as Alex Garnett and Cole Wist have voiced their support for such a bill and are willing to sponsor it. One positive such a bill would have on its side is that this type of move would not require a change in the state constitution.

Sports betting is prohibited as part of the state criminal code, rather than the state constitution, meaning that it will be the legislature that has complete control over the outcome of this bill.

This means that it would not be an issue that would be put forth to voters. This is good news for those in support of legalization, because historically the Colorado voter base has been against expanding gambling activities outside the realm of the three historic cities. Numerous proposed amendments have been shot down over the years by voters.

There would still be significant hurdles to be overcome. Stakeholders and constituents will have a large say with their respective assembly members, so it could be a long drawn out issue.

With a lot of infrastructure needing repairs or a complete overhaul, revenue derived from legalized gambling could be deployed in this manner, as outlined by Republican Stapleton.

It may be a trade-off that constituents and elected officials may have to settle for – legalized sports betting in exchange for better bridges and roads.