Gov. Signs Bill That Could Increase Water Funding from Sports Betting

Written By Adam Hensley on 05/23/2024
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A new Colorado sports betting tax bill could increase funding for the state’s water conservation efforts.

Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 1436 this week, which means it will be on the ballot in November.

If voters approve it, the cap on allocations would be removed. Instead of tax revenue from sports betting above a certain point going back to operators, those additional dollars would go to the Colorado Water Plan.

HB 1436 had bipartisan support

Currently, any annual tax revenue from Colorado sports betting above $29 million returns to sportsbooks. HB 1436 removes that cap, which should send more dollars toward the state’s water plan.

According to the Colorado General Assembly’s website, all sports betting tax dollars up to $29 million annually will “continue to be used to pay for the regulation of sports betting, to offset losses to other wagering revenue recipients, and to support responsible gaming with any remaining money being transferred to the water plan implementation cash fund.”

However, if voters sign off on it, all the money over $29 million would go directly into the Colorado Water Plan implementation fund for various projects and conservation efforts.

Before reaching Polis’ desk, the bill passed both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support. Democrats House Speaker Julie McCluskie and Sen. Dylan Roberts advocated for it, as did Republicans Minority Whip Cleave Simpson and Rep. Marc Catlin.

Roberts called on Colorado voters to finish the job.

“Water is Colorado’s most precious natural resource, because it powers everything we do, from agriculture to our outdoor recreation economy, which is why I am fighting tooth and nail to secure our state’s water future. Now, we’re giving Colorado voters an opportunity to join in the fight and allow sports betting revenue to fund critical water projects that will benefit communities across our state. I am proud of this bipartisan effort that will help protect our precious water resources and our Colorado way of life.”

State dealing with several water issues

Lawmakers intend for HB 1436 to address the state’s escalating water issues. Besides dealing with a growing population, drought, and climate change, Colorado also needs to improve conservation.

The state initially said it needed $100 million yearly until 2050 to fulfill its water plan. But Lauren Ris, deputy director for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, recently told the Colorado Sun that more needs to be done.

“Five years in water time is really a blink of an eye. Even though we’re so proud of the progress we’ve made, we’ve got a lot of work in front of us. There’s a lot to celebrate, but I also think we can’t rest too much on our laurels here.”

How sports betting is helping Colorado

In 2019, Colorado voters approved Proposition DD, which allowed tax revenue from sports betting to go toward the Colorado Water Plan.

In its first five years, the Colorado Water Plan sent $63.5 million in grants to more than 240 projects. Roughly $420 million in loans funded an additional 82 projects.

The projects have included:

  • New water storage
  • Raw water supply
  • Planning
  • Water conservation
  • Collaborative water-sharing agreements
  • Watershed and recreation projects
  • Water education and innovation

According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, $43.1 million in tax revenue from sports betting has gone to the water plan so far. With the continued popularity of sports betting in Colorado, that amount should get a big boost if voters approve the referendum from HB 1436 in November.

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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, who currently works for the USA Today Network. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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