Updated: The House offered concurrence in the waning hours on Friday night and the bill will now be sent to Governor Jared Polis for action. Polis will have 30 days to sign, veto or take no action on the bill. Sources say it appears Polis will sign. A referendum would then be placed on the November 2019 ballot, and if approved, sports wagering would be legal in 2020.
— Alec Garnett (@AlecGarnett) May 3, 2019
Updated: On Friday morning on the last day of the session, the Senate voted 27-8 to approve the bill, but the measure will have to go back to the House for concurrence before midnight today.
UPDATE: #coleg Senate votes 27-8 to approve HB 1327, which will ask Colorado voters in November to legalize sports betting, tax it and use most of the money for the Colorado Water Plan. Bill goes back to House now for amendments concurrence. What it does: https://t.co/TQHAK6oinc
— Ed Sealover (@ESealoverDenBiz) May 3, 2019
Colorado is poised to become the fifth state to send a bill to its governor after the Senate passed HB 1327 late Thursday night. The bill would ultimately send the decision to legalize to the voters, and would allow for mobile sports betting in Colorado. The bill will get a third and final reading today, Friday, which is the final day of the 2019 session.
The bill was introduced April 18 and made its way through the House in a week. Should the Senate pass it, Colorado would join Indiana, Iowa, Montana and Tennessee as states where the legislative body has approved it. Montana was the first, and it could become legal there by Sunday.
After being laid over for two days, the Senate finally took up HB 1327 late Thursday night. In fact, it was the second-to-last bill considered in a marathon session. After being introduced, there was about 20 minutes of discussion, mostly from opponents of the bill.
It’s ‘not a huge money maker’
“Right now we got marijuana, we got legalization of drugs galore everywhere,” said Senator Larry Crowder (R-District 35). “People get into gambling to make a profit, but why would you want to make people that much poorer? To make this so convenient that it’s on a telephone that is in your possession at all times? I don’t think that’s a good idea for the people of Colorado.”
Bill sponsor John Cooke (R-District 13) responded with a story of his own.
“Right now, there’s already gambling on people’s phones and their computers, it’s called the black market,” Cooke said. “Let me tell you about my concierge … I have a place down here (in Denver) … he said, ‘I want this bill to pass because right now, I have an offshore account and I’d rather bet here in Colorado.’ It’s not a huge moneymaker, but we’ll make $7-$10 million, so let’s keep that money here.”
The discussion was academic. When a vote was called — and in Colorado on a second reading that is done just by a call of “yeas” and “nays” — the bill passed easily. Turns out one of the few lawmakers that stood in favor of the bill was right.
“I do believe there is gambling in all 64 counties, of course, I’m POSITIVE there is gambling in all 64 counties,” said Senator Don Coram (R-District 6) in voicing his support of the bill. “In fact I’ve checked and the odds are 3-1 that it will pass.”
10 percent tax, no college prop bets
And so it did. HB 1327 would legalize sports wagers at three existing casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. Key points in the bill:
- Tax rate would be 10 percent;
- Prop bets on college sports would be prohibited;
- The referendum would go on the November 2019 ballot;
- It would not be allowed at the state’s only horse track in Arapahoe;
- A new department within the division of gaming would be created to regulate and oversee;
- Proceeds will be earmarked for the state’s water fund, to combat gambling addiction and to some educational initiatives.
Importantly, the bill does allow for statewide mobile and internet sports wagers, but it appears a mobile sportsbook must be tethered to a bricks-and-mortar sportsbook that has a “master licenses.”
“MASTER LICENSE” MEANS A LICENSE, ISSUED BY THE COMMISSION PURSUANT TO SECTION 44-30-1505 (1)(a), THAT AUTHORIZES THE LICENSEE TO EITHER CONDUCT SPORTS BETTING AND INTERNET SPORTS BETTING ITSELF OR CONTRACT WITH A SPORTS BETTING
OPERATOR, AN INTERNET SPORTS BETTING OPERATOR, OR BOTH, TO CONDUCT SPORTS BETTING.
But then each such licensee could partner with one or the same third parties to manage its retail and/or mobile platforms. So Colorado consumers stand to have plenty of options.
During Thursday night’s session, an amendment to cap sports bets at $100 was offered and failed overwhelmingly.