Never before has betting on sports sounded so altruistic.
But placing a wager on the Broncos or the Rockies — especially given the teams’ recent propensity for losing — might be considered a “green” activity if the statewide referendum on Proposition DD passes Nov. 5.
The ballot item seeks to legalize sports betting in the state’s casinos and through online venues connected to those casinos, devoting a portion of what’s known as the “take” (a gambling term referring to bettors’ losses) to provide revenue for critical initiatives identified in the Colorado Water Plan.
According to Yes on DD, the group that is working to build support for the referendum, the proposed 10 percent tax on sports betting could generate revenue of up to $29 million annually, although that’s a rough estimate. A small portion of the revenue, 7 percent, would go to the state to regulate the new form of legalized betting, but 93 percent would be used “to conserve and protect Colorado’s water” under the water plan, which was created in 2015.
According to Yes on DD, the sports-betting tax has been endorsed by Aspen Skiing Co., state Rep. Julie McCluskie and state Sen. Kerry Donovan. McCluskie and Donovan represent Pitkin County in the Colorado General Assembly. Donovan, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, was a strong supporter of the bipartisan legislation that moved Proposition DD to the fall ballot, Yes on DD spokesman Curtis Hubbard said.
“Kerry has been a great spokesperson and advocate for the bill,” Hubbard said.
The long endorsement list continues to grow. In fact, on Monday, a news release from the group noted that a coalition of conservation and sportsmen’s groups is backing the proposal. The coalition includes Conservation Colorado, Environmental Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, Business for Water Stewardship and Colorado Water Trust.
“Despite the good fortune of a big water year in 2019, we can’t take our foot off the gas in our efforts to fund Colorado’s Water Plan,” said Matt Rice, Colorado Basin director for American Rivers, in a prepared statement within the news release. “Proceeds from Proposition DD will provide a downpayment toward a more sustainable and reliable water future — for Colorado’s rivers, for Colorado’s economy and for families across Colorado. The passage of Proposition DD will help us get there.”
“Money, water and wins by the Broncos are scarce, but DD helps link the three in a way that funds, protects and keeps Colorado the state we know and love, with healthy rivers, clean drinking water and abundant recreation,” Brian Jackson, senior manager of western water at Environmental Defense Fund, said in the release. “We are hopeful that this measure will be a winner at the ballot box this fall.”
“With dedicated funding through Proposition DD, we can ensure that Colorado’s Water Plan is implemented to secure Colorado’s water future for the benefit of our economy and our rivers and streams,” added Drew Peternell, Colorado water project director for Trout Unlimited.
The water plan was created following what’s said to have been the largest civic engagement process in Colorado history. The plan was shaped by more than 30,000 comments from across the state and input from over 150 diverse entities. It sets forth the measurable objectives, goals and actions by which Colorado will address its projected future water needs and measure its progress, Yes on DD says.
The Colorado Water Plan seeks to support the objectives of the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan. The state water plan wants to ensure adequate instream flows locally that will promote healthy streams, support the recreational economy, recharge aquifers, protect water quality, sustain agriculture and secure safe drinking water, according to a section of the document that relates to the Roaring Fork Valley.
Yes on DD is made up of gaming, agricultural and conservation interests, Hubbard said. Colorado has several licensed casinos in Central City and the adjacent town of Black Hawk, which are located off Interstate 70 about one hour’s drive west of Denver, as well as in Cripple Creek.
“This would be a tax on casino’s sports-betting profits,” Hubbard said. “It’s the casinos that would be paying the tax, not the bettor, not Colorado voters.”
He said the state water plan identified $20 billion “worth of need” for projects and initiatives over the next 30 years, with the lion’s share of that being accounted for by water utilities and local governments, via ratepayers.
“There’s a $3 billion gap that the state has to fill — roughly $100 million a year,” Hubbard said. “So Proposition DD is a downpayment on filling that gap, of up to $29 million a year.”
He likened the proposition to the 30-year state program that takes a portion of lottery proceeds to fund grants provided by Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, to preserve, protect and enhance the state’s wildlife, parks, rivers, trails and open spaces.
“This is very similar,” Hubbard said.
Kara Silbernagel, Pitkin County’s policy and project manager, said Thursday that she has not spoken with the Board of County Commissioners about the details of Proposition DD. She said a discussion about whether to endorse it could occur sometime before the November election, but no such talks are in the works.