Gaming officials said that since Colorado began legalized sports betting in May 2020, the state has collected nearly five times more money than estimated for water projects.
According to Daniel Hartman, director of the state’s gaming division, the start of the National Football League season provided another welcome financial bump, with stakes of around $44 million during its first weekend (September 9–13).
“Football is getting boring. It was a big start for us,” Hartman said. “It really is the biggest market for sports betting.”
According to Lauren Riis, deputy director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the money collected from gambling proceeds goes to conserve water, protect natural habitats, improve infrastructure, and more. More money equals funding new projects under the Colorado Water Plan at a time when Colorado River reservoirs run low.
Hartman said his office has earmarked about $8 million from sports betting for the plan, which sets priorities through 2050 for projects in the following five categories: agriculture; conservation and land use; engagement and innovation; environment and entertainment; and water storage and supply.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board puts out the money, and Riss said it tries to fund projects that check more than one box, such as working with Colorado Springs utilities that move from the Eagle River Basin to Colorado Springs. and brings water to Aurora – which she called “opened up” to quite a few fish and boating habitats. ”
Before voters legalized sports betting, Riss said his department was giving grants with money found in their “couch cushion.”
Initially, legislative analysts estimated gambling could bring in between $9.7 million and $11.2 million in its first year, said Department of Revenue spokeswoman Suzanne Karr. But shortly after voters agreed to legalize the practice, state officials cut their estimates for 2020-2021 to between $1.5 million and $1.7 million because casinos host sports betting every other year. were not for $125,000, Karr said.
Even as the pandemic shut down the league for a few months, gamblers flocked to sports betting – made easy through apps. Hartman said $3 billion in stakes, from May 2020 to July 31, 2021, translates into $9.4 million in state revenue.
“People found a new way to watch and enjoy sports while at home and not really in stadiums,” he said.
There were four online businesses betting in Colorado in 2020 (casinos were closed); In 2021, there are now 25 online “operators” and 17 casinos in the cities of Cripple Creek, Central City and Blackhawk.
Ris said the board may not deliver any of this windfall until next summer, after the 2022 General Assembly has allowed the money to be spent.