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House passes bill asking voters to OK sports betting for Colorado River Plan

April 24, 2019, 4:28 pm
Max Williams watches Todd Helton on second base in 2013 after Helton’s 2,500th career hit. (David O. Williams photo).

The Colorado House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill to legalize sports betting in the state in order to pay for Colorado Water Plan projects. Sponsored by local lawmakers Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, HB 1327 would have to be approved by Colorado voters if it passes the Senate.

The lead House sponsors are Republican Minority Leader Patrick Neville and Democratic Majority Leader Alec Garnett. Roberts is a co-sponsor.

“Funding Colorado’s Water Plan is crucial to the future of our state for many reasons,” Roberts tweeted recently. “To have a dedicated source of funding for it would be a major benefit and that’s what this bill does.”

Here’s the Colorado Democrats’ press release on Wednesday’s 58-6 vote:

Effort to Legalize Sports Betting Passes House 

Around $150 billion is wagered illegally on sports every year in the U.S. 

The House passed a bipartisan bill sponsored by Majority Leader Alec Garnett that would legalize sports betting in Colorado. This bill would require voter approval if passed by the General Assembly. 

“Coloradans should have the option of betting on the Nuggets in the playoffs or the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup. This funding will go toward our most precious resource – our water and this is something everyone can get behind,” said Majority Leader Garnett, D-Denver. “It is our hope that this measure will help stamp out black market sports betting.” 

HB19-1327 would provide a master license to local casinos who can then contract with brick and mortar and/or internet sports betting operators to provide sports betting in Colorado. A 10 percent tax on net sports betting proceeds will be placed in a Sports Betting Fund. That fund will go towards the Water Implementation Cash Fund to support Colorado Water Plan projects that will keep our drinking water safe, our farms and ranches thriving, and keep our rivers healthy. 

If approved, the measure would go to on the 2019 November ballot. 

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will govern the Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund. Some of the eligible projects for these funds are water storage and supply projects, conversation and land use projects, engagement and innovation activities, agricultural projects and environmental and recreation projects. 

Organizations in support of this measure are the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, the Colorado Municipal League, the Colorado River District, the Environmental Defense Action Fund, Western Resource Advocates, and Denver Water. 

The bill is sponsored by Minority Leader Patrick Neville. The Senate sponsors are Sen. Kerry Donovan and Sen. John Cooke. 

HB19-1327 passed out of House Finance committee with a bipartisan vote of 9-1.

The House approved it on a vote of 58-6. It now heads to the Senate. 

Not everyone is a fan. Water conservation advocate Gary Wockner, director of Save The Colorado, issued this release:

“Gambling For Dams” Is Climate Denial — Save The Colorado Strongly Opposes House Bill 19-1327

[Last week]a bill was introduced in the Colorado State Legislature to potentially legalize sports betting in Colorado to pay for new river-destroying dams supported by the Colorado Water Plan. House Bill 19-1327 (see link here) — also supports using the gambling money to buy Colorado farmers’ water to try and save Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell in Arizona which is increasingly likely to be drained by drought and climate change.

“This ‘Gambling For Dams’ bill is a climate-denying, river-destroying scheme pure and simple,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Colorado. “To think that Colorado can dam its way out of climate change is a gamble of the highest stakes.”

The Colorado Water Plan is extremely controversial and supported building more dams on Colorado’s rivers to store 400,000 acre feet of water — the Plan was even nicknamed the “Colorado Dam Plan” (see link here). The Plan was projected to cost $40 billion (see link here), some portion of which included damming and destroying more of Colorado’s already threatened rivers. 

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