Legal Sports Betting in Colorado: Road to Legalization & The Path Ahead

Posted on December 11, 2019 - Last Updated on February 10, 2020

Legal Colorado sports betting is imminent. It’s the result of months of work and will require much more before the live product actually rolls out.

A complicated public referendum was the final hurdle in the path to legalization. Regulation lies ahead, beginning with an invitation-only meeting on the state’s regulations.

What happened to legalize Colorado sports betting

Despite the opinion of the state attorney general that a vote of Colorado’s citizens wasn’t necessary to legalize sports betting, legislators played it safe on the topic. State law complicated the ballot’s language, however.

Because the ballot measure involved a tax “increase,” which was an estimate of new revenue that legal sports betting in Colorado would bring to fund state water projects, the question on the ballot seemed to ask voters whether they wanted to pay more taxes. Though the vote on Proposition DD required a recount, it ultimately passed, albeit by a small margin of less than 2.5%.

That effectively legalized sports betting in the Centennial State. Much work remains before Coloradans can actually place legal wagers, however.

Much of that is laid out in the new law. It’s the job of the state government to interpret the law and decide how to enforce it in actual practice.

The details of Colorado’s new gambling expansion law

Under the new law, all 33 Centennial State casinos can apply for master licenses. Under that umbrella, sportsbook operators can apply for a sports betting operator license, an internet sports betting operator license or both.

Casinos are free to operate their sportsbooks themselves if they wish as the law grants one online skin. The cost of all/any of the licenses is yet to be determined.

Each master license holder will pay the state 10% of its aggregated revenue. Aggregated revenue is handle minus win and other deductions.

The law expressly forbids betting on esports competitions and high school events. Unlike in other states, there are no carve-outs for intercollegiate sports whatsoever.

Like in other states, bettors need to be at least 21 years of age and physically located within Colorado’s borders. Bettors need not legally reside in Colorado, however.

Colorado’s Limited Gaming Control Commission will set policy going forward. The cost of licenses is just one example of items to be determined.

The first CLGCC meeting of stakeholders looms large

The law states sportsbook operators can’t launch in the state until May, 2020. It may take longer to get everything together though.

That work begins next week with a meeting of stakeholders organized by the CLGCC. Those invitees include but aren’t limited to:

  • Casino operators
  • Private citizens
  • Professional sports leagues and individual franchises in them
  • Sportsbook operators
  • Sportsbook suppliers

Over the following months, the CLGCC will determine procedures for license applications, requirements for sportsbooks’ geolocation services, how to best make sports betting conform to responsible gambling protocols and more. While May is a possibility, Coloradans shouldn’t take it as a guarantee.

The only guarantee is that legal sports betting is coming to Colorado. While certain members of the state government were more responsible than others for the progress thus far, ultimately the voters in the state provided the final push.

In the coming months, those same Colorado citizens will have an opportunity to influence policy by attending CLGCC meetings and speaking up.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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