Prop DD would legalize sports betting and tax it to fund water projects | VailDaily.com

Prop DD would legalize sports betting and tax it to fund water projects

Eleanor C. Hasenbeck, Steamboat Pilot

What would Proposition DD do, if passed?

There are two key elements of Proposition DD.

First, it would legalize sports betting in Colorado. While sports betting occurs across the United States, the companies that host it were previously based internationally. A 2018 Supreme Court decision legalized the practice in the U.S., and so far, 18 states have allowed sports betting.

Residents would be allowed to place wagers on college, professional and Olympic sporting events. It would allow in-person betting in the state’s casinos and allow casinos to partner with web-based companies to offer sports betting online.

Second, it would place a 10% tax on revenues casinos earn from sports betting, with revenues funding water projects outlined in the Colorado Water Plan, created in 2015.  

What would this tax revenue fund?

Proposition DD would pay into a fund to support the Colorado Water Plan, administrative and regulatory expenses and a hold harmless fund. The Office of Behavioral Health would receive up to $130,000 annually to provide resources for gambling addiction.

The Colorado Water Plan sets goals to conserve water, incorporate water planning in land use plans, create management plans for Colorado watersheds and increase the amount of water storage available in reservoirs. It includes specific goals for the Yampa, White and Green River Basin.

The estimated cost of implementing the Water Plan is $20 billion over the next 20 years. Revenue from a tax on sports betting as proposed would not fully fund the implementation of the plan.

Tax revenue from what’s proposed in Proposition DD is forecast to generate about $14.9 million annually for water projects. This revenue would be divvied up by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“My concern is that the general public will believe that ‘Well, we’ve solved the problem now for water. Water can come off the table, and it’s no longer a concern.’ … I mean, basically, we’re just putting a drop in the bucket and addressing water dollars to serve water needs,” said Doug Monger, who serves as a Routt County commissioner and on the Yampa White Green Roundtable. He also sits on the board of the Colorado River District, which has publicly supported the measure.

What do people in favor of the measure say?

House District 26 Rep. Dylan Roberts said that under current policy, as legislative priorities change, funding for water projects can change.

“Obviously people in Routt County will be able to place bets from their smartphones if this goes through, but the benefit from all of this is that we get a dedicated stream of funding for the water plan, which would mean the most for Routt County,” Roberts said.  

Roberts added that if Colorado doesn’t legalize sports betting, Coloradans will place bets with companies in other states, sending tax dollars elsewhere. 

“I understand the concern about betting and gambling on sports games, but the fact is that it’s already happening,” Roberts said. “This ballot measure brings it out of the dark — the illegal market — and puts parameters around it and then helps the state move forward with its water planning as well.”

Monger said the Colorado Water Conservation Board is based on river basins, not population, giving rural Colorado equal representation on the board as Front Range, metro areas.

What do opponents of the measure say?

Proposition DD has only one registered campaign opponent: Coloradans for Climate Justice. The group is not opposed to sports betting but broad funding of the entire Colorado Water Plan.

“Proposition DD proposes to raise taxes and use that money to build new ‘water projects’ in Colorado to fix the problems caused by climate damage,” wrote member Gary Wockner in a column in the Greeley Tribune. “The ‘water projects’ are completely undefined. The money will be a slush fund for the State Legislature to spend on whatever is called a ‘water project,’ including new river-destroying dams and diversions on our state’s already severely depleted rivers.”

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.comor follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.