Legalized Sports Betting is a Big Win for Colorado Water

Sports betting making a big splash for Colorado water projects 

By Don Ireland, contributing writer of Colorado WaterWise

Colorado residents were legally allowed to place their first sports bets in May 2020 after voting to authorize that style of gaming the previous year. However, the coronavirus pandemic had postponed or cancelled several scheduled 2020 sports seasons – resulting in fewer betting options for gamblers. At the time, such non-U.S. sports, including South Korean baseball, English Premier League soccer and Russian table tennis, were popular bet options. During the past 10 months, U.S. fan favorites, including professional football, basketball and hockey, returned to action and attracted wagers 

Even without fans in the stadiums for many teams last fall and winter (due to various pandemic and social-distancing restrictions), the popularity of sports betting has grown. Colorado law allows sports betting in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek casinos and through online apps. The Colorado Department of Revenue reported $300,390,842 was wagered in March, the most recent month for which figures are available. Most of the bets that month – 59.1 percent – were placed on NBA basketball (35.5 percent) and NCAA basketball (23.6 percent). Hockey, tennis, soccer, table tennis, golf and MMA fighting garnered most of the remaining wagers. 

Between May 2020 and March 2021 in Colorado, legal sports betting attracted an estimated $2.3 billion in wagers. 

Sean Demeule, vice president and general manager of the Ameristar Casino Resort Spa in Blackhawk, said sports betting has attracted new patrons. “Opening the Barstool Sportsbook has definitely brought us a new sports-centric, younger, male leading demographic to Ameristar. While that demographic has always been a fan of our casino, we are seeing a large influx of that segment of clientele as the Barstool Sportsbook brand really resonates with them.” 

During the past few months, four major online sports betting operators – BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet – launched a campaign connecting sports betting and its benefit to water projects, “Colorado Water Wins!”. 

Suzanne Karrer, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Department of Gaming, said the state’s fiscal year ends June 30. Colorado gets a 10 percent cut of winnings paid to bettors. The state’s share includes a 0.25 percent federal excise tax and allowing for deductions for free bets and promotions offered by an app. (The ads you see offering promotions and “free play” do not benefit Colorado.) Once the final revenues are determined, following an audit, various authorized expenses will be deducted. Remaining proceeds will be advanced to the state’s Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund (the water plan).  

In 2015, under the direction of then-governor John Hickenlooper, state agencies and officials created the Colorado Water Plan for the rapidly-growing Centennial State. The plan examined the water supply for the state’s 5 million residents and addressed future needs. More than 30,000 people provided input to the plan, which is scheduled for periodic updates. Among the findings: the need to fund billions of dollars for water-infrastructure projects before 2050, when the state’s projected population could reach 9 million people and a water shortfall could potentially impact more than a million residents. The state water plan has been characterized as “chronically underfunded” by leaders. 

The Colorado Department of Revenue reported 98 percent of sports bets are placed through an app while only two percent are made in person at a casino. Many casinos in the three mountain gaming towns have added sports betting sections and kiosks where residents can wager money on a variety of sports-related activities. 

(Sorry, you can’t legally bet on how much revenue sports betting will raise for the Colorado water plan next fiscal year.)  


First-year sports betting yields $7.9 million for state’s water plan

By Don Ireland, contributing writer of Colorado WaterWise

As sports betting goes, what started out as a few drops eventually turned into a downpour for the Colorado water plan. Next year, it could be a flood.

When voter-approved sports betting became a reality in May 2020, it came in the middle of a state – and national – shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S., sports felt the impact of Covid-19, with professional sports teams limiting, cancelling or postponing schedules. Bettors ended up placing bets on Korean baseball and Russian table tennis.

Eventually, Covid related restrictions eased and many U.S. sports franchises returned to action, although many venues limited the number of fans attending – or prohibited anyone from catching a game in person.

Despite the setbacks, the initial year of sports betting ended on June 30, 2021. Tax revenues collected by the state, based on reported net sports betting proceeds, were finally “in the records book” (as sports enthusiasts say). The result: the new activity provided $7,945,834 for the state’s water fund. Another $600,000 from betting revenues was used for state administrative purposes and to fund a gambling-problem hotline.

The recent return of full schedules for college and pro football, and with fans returning to the stadiums, is expected to help the current 2021-22 sports-betting revenue year outpace the previous one, according to experts.

In September 2021, the most recent month for which figures are available, a total of $408,314,624 was wagered in Colorado. The most popular bets included NFL football (30.8%), baseball (16.8%) and college football (11.5%). A year earlier, $207,655,942 in bets were placed, meaning sports betting nearly doubled for the same period compared to a year earlier. From the start of legalized sports betting in May 2020 through September 2021, just over $3 billion has been wagered within Colorado borders by sports bettors, according to the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission. The majority of bets – 99 percent of them – are placed via online apps associated with casinos in the Colorado gaming towns of Black Hawk and Central City (Gilpin County) and Cripple Creek (Teller County). The remainder are placed inside of a brick-and-mortar casino.


Articles and photo provided by  Colorado WaterWise