Disgruntled Colorado tribes seek change to sports betting laws – Basketball Insiders


The chairmen of the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes has asked Colorado’s legislature why they were ignored during the legislative conversation for the legalization of online sports betting in 2019. 

Ute Mountain Chairman Manuel Heart, and Southern Ute Chairman Melvin Baker have said neither tribe was consulted when the 2019 legislature referred the measure to a ballot that year which approved online sports betting.

The reason for the gripe is clear, with Colorado’s 33 commercial casinos all being allowed to offer mobile betting statewide, but the 2 tribal entities not having the power to do so. 

Recently, the Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting and the nonpartisan Legislative Council Staff project that sports betting tax revenues could be as high as $24m for the 2022-23 fiscal year. $22.5m of that is earmarked for projects outlined in the Colorado Water Plan, a large increase on prior tax receipts due to the adjustment in how commercial casinos can treat bonuses and promotions when it comes to tax reporting. 

What have the tribes been saying?

Previously, the majority of bonuses and promotions offered by operators could be deducted, thus encouraging vast promotional activity, but many states have started to amend and taper promotional activity as the states start to mature post-launch. 

Manuel Heart, Chairman of Ute Mountain, told the Colorado Sun “Time is money, and since this being passed in 2019, we’ve lost that much money with sports betting”. 

Southern Ute Chairman Baker said in a speech: “We can’t always agree on every issue but sometimes it’s better to disagree and work together. It’s the cooperation and willingness to work together that makes us all stronger”. 

How does Colorado compare to the rest of the United States?

The tax rate for sports betting is levied at 10% on a statewide basis and applies to both. The rules on collegiate betting remain on par with the most stringent, allowing no prop bets on collegiate events per legislation. Initial license fee was just $2,000, and the 2020 licence renewal fees varied from $17,900 to $77,000 when reported to the American Gaming Association in 2020. 

Commercial gaming analysts would argue that the sports betting revenue lost by the 2 tribal estates is relatively insignificant and thus does not warrant a further look. However, US legislative battles over recent years – especially when relating to gaming and betting (and subsequent tax receipts) have proved that tribal and commercial tensions remain a sticking point. 

In 2021, Colorado was (by sports wagering handle) the 8th largest sports betting market in the United States of America. Sports wagering handle came in at $250.1m for 2021, making Colorado the eighth largest sports betting market in the US in 2021. Online sports wagering comprised 98% of sports wagering handle, giving the Colorado tribes significant evidence of potential financial detriment from now being allowed to offer statewide sports betting.

The question remains, however, with discrepancy between federal and tribal law and tax, how can parity be made and ensured?