Water Projects Still Waiting, But $8 Million From Sports Betting Flowing Their Way

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It’s been nearly 18 months since Colorado regulators licensed BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings, and FanDuel to offer statewide mobile sports betting. And it will likely be another eight months before the Colorado Water Conservation Board can start sharing in the funds such wagering brought in during its first year.

Last month, the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees sports betting via its gaming division, announced that it was sending about $8 million to the board for water projects. But that money won’t get put into action until next summer, after the state legislature grants permission to spend it, according to the Denver Post.

The $8 million is less than the $9.6 million initially projected for FY 2020-21, but more than the revised $1.5 million gaming officials thought would be disseminated after the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. As with all new sports betting markets, the true amount of tax revenue is likely to grow over the first five years before leveling out.

“The fact that it is more than we expected the first year is extra reason for us to celebrate,” Water Conservation Board COO Anna Mauss said when the Limited Gaming Control Commission announced its disbursements in September.

Coloradans embracing sports betting

Bettors in Colorado have wagered with gusto since legalization, laying down just over $211 million in bets in August ahead of the start of the football season. The September revenue report has not yet been released, but regulatory chief Dan Hartman said at the last LGCC meeting that growth in the state has been consistent.

“We are constantly amazed and impressed with the continued growth we see in our state and how Coloradans have embraced this new form of legalized entertainment,” Hartman said via press release after the LGCC announced distributions from sports betting tax revenue in September. “The enabling legislation, the vote of the people, the industry relationships with operators, and the enthusiasm of bettors have all contributed to our success in creating a healthy, competitive Colorado market. We are happy how these results translate into wins for the citizens of Colorado.”

 

Any funds will help conservation efforts

Colorado’s Water Plan, which has set priorities through 2050, would be fully funded at $100 million per year. And while that number is more than 10 times the 2020-21 revenue, those in the industry say any money will be put to good use.

Last year, Andy Schultheiss of the Colorado Water Trust said revenue from sports betting was a “good initial investment,” while Sara Leonard of the Colorado Water Conservation Board told CO Bets that her agency grants money to conservation groups to implement projects.

The water board has tagged five silos — storage and supply, environment and recreation, engagement and innovation, conservation and land use, and agriculture — as recipients for water funds. There is also a sixth silo for “future projects.” Within the five categories, some projects are small, some are large, some are relatively cheap, and some are relatively pricey — which means that any dollars flowing into the board will get used.

Jill has covered everything from steeplechase to the NFL and then some during a more than 30-year career in sports journalism. The highlight of her career was covering Oakland Raiders during the Charles Woodson/Jon Gruden era, including the infamous “Snow Bowl” and the Raiders’ 2003 trip to Super Bowl XXXVII. Her specialty these days is covering sports betting legislation across the country.

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