Colorado voters narrowly passed a ballot initiative Tuesday that legalized sports betting at the state’s 33 casinos in the former mining towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.
The results of the vote were so evenly split that the ballot initiative was too close to call until Wednesday night when more of the votes could be counted from some of the state’s urban areas. With the passage, the casinos will be allowed to offer both brick-and-mortar and online sports betting.
Sports betting operators will be taxed at 10 percent on profits. The majority of those tax dollars will be used to fund the state’s water conservation projects.
With more than 1.3 million votes cast, the ‘yes’ led by a margin of about 1.5 percent, or approximately 20,000 votes. The margin was enough for the Associated Press to call the race.
According to the Colorado Sun, most of the state’s 64 counties voted against the measure. It was the more populated counties in and around Denver that voted for the initiative to become the law of the land.
It’s not that rural areas were anti-gambling per se. The bipartisan bill flew through the state legislature last May and was passed in just a matter of weeks before Gov. Jared Polis put his signature on it. But thanks to Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), voters were given the final say.
According to TABOR, any tax increase must be voted on by the residents of the state. Since this was technically an increase in government revenue, it needed to be voted on.
TABOR led to somewhat confusing language on the ballot that referenced the initiative as a tax increase of $29 million to fund state water projects.
It is estimated that sports betting will generate about $11 million in tax revenue in the next financial year, which kicks off July 1, 2020. Colorado became the sixth state to pass sports betting legislation in 2019, joining Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Tennessee. Tennessee’s legislation is for online betting only.