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Legal Betting On Sports Games In Colorado Won't Happen Anytime Soon

By Romi Bean

DENVER (CBS4) - According to the Nevada Gaming Commission, in 2017, $1.8 billion worth of bets were placed on football, $1.5 billion on basketball, and $1.1 billion on baseball.

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(credit: CBS)

For the last 25 years, Las Vegas (and the state of Nevada) has had sports gambling all to itself, but the time has come for Sin City to share the wealth.

The Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act, or PAPSA, established in 1992 made it illegal to gamble on sports anywhere in the U.S., except Nevada. The law made the Las Vegas' sportsbook a national commodity. If you wanted to bet on a game, the only place you could legally do it was Nevada. But it won't be that way for much longer. The Supreme Court just gave the go-ahead to legalize sports betting nationwide.

Michael Hartman
Michael Hartman (credit: CBS)

"The Supreme Court ruling this past week indicated they're going to defer to the states in terms of what their laws and rules are in terms for sports gambling. For each state, you have to look at what the existing laws are, and if states decide they want sports gambling, they need to take action to make that happen," said Colorado Department of Revenue Executive Director Michael Hartman.

Four states have already passed legislation and 18 more have introduced legislation.

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Colorado hasn't made any moves because it's a little more complicated here.

"In Title 18 of the Colorado Revised Statues, it specifically prohibits sports gambling. It makes sports gambling illegal. So the first thing that would need to take place is the legislature would have to change that prohibition. The second is constitutional related. So it's possible we would also need a constitutional change, which would require a vote of the people," Hartman said.

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(credit: CBS)

It sounds like it might be a while before you're throwing down cash on a Broncos game up in Black Hawk.

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(credit: CBS)

Peggi O'Keefe, executive director of the Colorado Gaming Association, said it will likely be anywhere from 18 to 24 months before you can legally bet on sports in Colorado. And if sports betting gets the green light in Colorado, it will likely start out in three mountain towns where infrastructure is already in place: Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.

"We believe voters have spoken repeatedly that they like to keep gambling in those three mountain communities," O'Keefe said. "Every time there's been an attempt to allow gambling outside of the mountain communities it's failed miserably -- anywhere from 68 to 90 percent failure rate."

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O'Keefe will lobby to keep gambling isolated to the mountain towns instead of expanding throughout the state. The CGA believes it's the best way to keep Coloradans happy.

Peggi O'Keefe
Peggi O'Keefe (credit: CBS)

"Folks like the idea of gambling limited up in the mountains, not in their backyard, not on the street corner, not adding transportation woes. Not adding concerns with what might be going on. They like it in the mountain towns, where it's in a confined area," O'Keefe said.

Whether or not sports gambling stays in the three mountain towns or expands throughout the state is to be seen.

For now, it's a waiting game. But that's not always a bad thing.

"Because Title 18 specifically outlaws sports betting at this point, today we can't do anything and wouldn't be able to participate regardless of what the recent Supreme Court ruling was," Hartman said.

"I think taking time to learn lessons from others is always a good thing."

Romi Bean is a sports anchor and reporter at CBS4. Connect with Romi on Twitter @Romi_Bean.

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