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This Sept. 5, 2019 photo shows a gambler making a sports bet at Bally's casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Wayne Parry / AP Photo

What You Need to Know About Proposition DD

This measure, which will be included on the statewide ballot in November, asks voters to legalize sports gambling to fund Colorado water projects.

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It might not be the wisest decision to put $20 down on the Broncos given how they’ve been playing recently, but if voters pass Proposition DD in November, you’ll be able to bet on Denver (or any other sports team) legally.

The measure, which legalizes sports gambling and taxes casinos to help fund Colorado water projects, will allow only for bets to be placed through casinos in the mountain towns of Central City, Cripple Creek, and Black Hawk. However, it’s likely that these businesses would create online operations, through which you could place bets from anywhere in the state. A similar scenario is already in effect in New Jersey, where online gambling accounted for 80 percent of all sports bets in the state last year.

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[Read More: What Proposition DD Would Actually Mean for Colorado]

Many states are legalizing sports gambling or considering it after a 2018 Supreme Court decision ruled that the federal government could not make laws prohibiting states from authorizing sports betting. According to the American Gaming Association, 12 states have joined Nevada in legalizing this type of gambling, while at least five other states and Washington, D.C. have passed bills that are not yet in effect. Six other states have active legislation on the issue.

Courtesy of the American Gaming Association

For being such a short ballot question, there are a lot of nuances to this issue. Read on for more about what this measure says and how it will affect Colorado:

What you’ll see on the ballot
“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?”

Didn’t this already pass through the legislature?
Yes, Gov. Jared Polis signed HB-1327, which set up the framework for the bill and authorized the issue to be put on the ballot, in May after it passed through the state legislature. Now it’s up to voters to approve the bill.

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“The Colorado legislature worked on a regulatory framework and had the option of not taxing casinos, but thought that would be a missed opportunity,” says House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, who co-sponsored the bill. Because the bill represents a change in the tax code, it must be approved by Colorado Voters, based on the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR). Without TABOR—which will also be up for repeal via a separate proposition on the 2019 statewide ballot—this proposition would already be law.

TABOR is also responsible for the wording of the bill. The tax will only be applied to casinos and not picked up by Colorado taxpayers. The bill written by legislators estimates that revenue from sports betting could top $29 million per year, but the blue book voters received in the mail states that the revenue will average around $16 million annually for the first five years, based on what has occurred in other states.

Who supports Proposition DD?
The House bill outlining the measure sailed through both chambers of the state legislature with bipartisan support. The most vocal support group, Yes on Proposition DD, received funding from casino groups and sports gambling sites. For most people who are supporting the bill, it seemed like the right way to approve sports gambling in the state.

“Here in Colorado, people are already betting online, they’re just being operated offshore. This seemed like the right opportunity to come in and regulate an opportunity that’s already taking place,” says Garnett. “And then to refer a tax to go to one of Colorado’s top priorities, which is funding Colorado’s Water Plan.”

The first-ever Colorado Water Plan was adopted in November 2015 after years of study, and provides a blueprint for how the state will meet its growing water needs. The plan has so far lacked a dedicated revenue stream, which is what Proposition DD hopes to provide.

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Because the revenue from this measure will focus primarily on the Colorado Water Plan, Proposition DD has also been endorsed by a slew of environmental groups, including American Rivers, Conservation Colorado, Colorado Water Trust, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Outdoor Industry Association, among many others. James Eklund, the former director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the official who drafted the Colorado Water Plan, also supports the measure.

(MORE: Can a Water Plan Actually Work?)

Who opposes Proposition DD?
The opposition to this proposal is minimal. “I’ve been saying that there’s no opposition to this. It’s received every endorsement in every newspaper so far, but there is one person who disagrees.” Garnett says.

That person is Gary Wockner, head of Coloradans for Climate Justice. And he’s not necessarily opposed to legalizing sports gambling; he’s opposed to the Colorado Water Plan. “We need to conserve water, and we need to find a positive way to work with farmers rather than further draining and destroying Colorado’s already severely depleted rivers,” says Wockner.

Should Coloradans be concerned about legalizing sports gambling?
There hasn’t been much opposition to Proposition DD on moral grounds either. J. Michael Faragher, director of addiction specialization at the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver, isn’t surprised, given how society has shifted.

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“It wasn’t that long ago that our parents and grandparents considered gambling a sin. Now, it’s a state-supported form of gambling. So it’s been an enormous cultural shift.” Faragher says. “There are still pockets of society that consider it a sin, but 48 out of 50 [states] have legalized gambling [through the lottery].” 

(MORE: Why Local Therapists Are Concerned About Sports Betting in Colorado)

But Faragher is interested in how the influx of legal sports gambling will impact addiction and treatment, and says there should be more data about the effects on American society as more states roll out sports betting.

“Well, the general rule of thumb is when any kind of potentially addictive behavior becomes more available to people, rates increase up to a certain point. So there’s no reason to think that’s not going to happen if we make sports betting legal and available,” says Faragher, “But sports betting already exists, it just isn’t legal. Now, what might happen is, if people are gambling legally and they develop a severe problem, they may be more willing to go to a counselor and disclose that.”

To offset this concern, the bill allots $130,000 a year to gambling addiction services. Garnett says he is committed to increasing that number in the Colorado legislature should the need arise.

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But haven’t people already been betting on sports for years? 
Well, yes. But not like this. People have been using online betting sites (Bovada is one of the most popular) to put money on sports for a long time. The difference is that none of those sites have been based in the United States because that would be illegal, so they’re “off-shore” and allowed to operate. Proposition DD would create a structure in Colorado where casinos based in-state can operate sports books and the state will benefit—something that has never existed here before.

So, if the measure passes, when can I start betting on the Broncos?
Can’t say that bet will be a winner, but gambling would begin in May of 2020 if the measure passes. Failure to pass would dash hopes of legalized sports gambling in Colorado for the near future.

(MORE: What you need to know about Proposition CC, on the November 2019 ballot)

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