Colorado has legalized sports betting statewide through referendum, with the proposition receiving 51.1% of the vote.
The race was called after a total of 756,720 people voted in favor of legalizing sports betting, while 723,665 voted against.
The proposition read: “Shall state taxes be increased by twenty-nine million dollars annually to fund state water projects and commitments and to pay for the regulation of sports betting through licensed casinos by authorizing a tax on sports betting of ten percent of net sports betting proceeds, and to impose the tax on persons licensed to conduct sports betting?”
The referendum was too close to call at the end of Tuesday (5 November) night and so stretched into Wednesday morning. However, the vote for the proposition exceeded the threshold to automatically trigger a recount, which occurs if the margin of victory less or equal to than 0.5% of the winning total.
Much of the proposition’s support came from the areas surrounding the cities of Denver and Boulder, with Denver County containing the strongest support for the measure with 63.2% of the vote. The state’s rural counties mostly voted against the bill, with Baca County in the southeast earning the strongest vote against with 78.1% of the vote.
El Paso County, the most populous county in the state and the county containing Colorado’s second-largest city, Colorado Springs, also voted against the proposition.
Commercial casinos in Colorado are only legal if located in Black Hawk or Central City in Gilpin County, of which 51.2% of residents voted for the proposition, or Cripple Creek in Teller County, where 54.1% voted against the bill.
The Ute native American tribe also operate two casinos in the state, in La Plata County, which voted 50.1% against, and Montezuma County, where 62.5% voted against the legalisation of sports betting.
The state’s sports betting bill, HB19-1327, was introduced on April 18 and quickly passed through the state legislature, securing approval from both the House and Senate before receiving the signature of Governor Jared Polis.
The bill establishes the Colorado Gaming Control Commission to regulate the sports betting sector, with operators that secure a licence to offer services in the state to face a tax rate of 10% on gross revenue.
Although the bill does not set out exact license fees, it does state that any license or renewal fee should not exceed $125,000.
Colorado will offer three types of licenses to operators: a master license, sports betting operator license and internet sports betting operator license. All 33 land-based casinos in Colorado must obtain a master license to offer sports wagering, with this permit allowing them to contract entities holding either of the other licences.
The first legal wagers are set to be placed in May 2020.