In an effort to provide more capital and awareness around problem gambling programs in the state of Colorado, Speaker of The House Alec Garnett introduced a bill to fund a grant program for these gambling programs. This bill comes just months after Garnett and other regulators of sports betting in the state vowed to increase the annual funding for problem gambling in Colorado, which is currently $130,000 per year.
Grant Program Information
The bill calls for $2.5 million of the tax revenue that sports betting generates in Colorado to be transferred into a cash fund to be used by the grant program. It also calls on the general assembly to allocate an additional $200,000 from the state lottery fund towards problem gaming in Colorado.
The Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (LGCC) will collaborate with the Office of Behavioral Health to “administer the grant program and award grants to eligible applicants from money in the responsible gaming grant program cash fund,” according to the new bill. To be considered an eligible grant applicant, one must be an agency of a state government, local government or non-profit organization. Furthermore, applicants must include the following information in their application: the amount of grant money requested, how they will spend the grant money to address problem gaming or increase awareness of responsible gaming, and any current or past projects associated with problem gambling.
The LGCC and the behavioral health administration are “required to promulgate rules to implement the grant program. At a minimum, the rules must specify the time frames for applying for grants, the form of the grant program application, and the time frames for distributing grant money,” according to the bill.
There are several other aspects to the bill that are not directly related to the grant program, though that is the bulk of it. It requires the Division of Gaming in Colorado to regulate the exclusion of certain individuals from gambling in the state. These exclusion lists are currently regulated by the Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado.
The bill also calls for total recall of the cash-only requirement for the Colorado lottery and reduces the free-play tax deductions operators have to just 2.5% of their total sports betting handle. This 2.5% is set to decrease by a quarter percent each year until it reaches 1.75% in 2026.
Righting Wrongs and On The Clock
The implementation of this bill will be a big step for the state of Colorado as they have historically been recognized as a state that fails to recognize and improve problem gambling in their state. In a 2016 survey referenced by the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health Colorado was ranked third-to-last in states that provide public funding for problem gambling. On a per-capita basis they contribute three cents, and have provided little to no support outside of offering the national help hotline to its bettors.
All of this is a step in the right direction for Colorado, but only if they can pull it off in time. The current legislative session commenced on Jan. 11 and it will end on May 11. If the bill can make it through both chambers and the general assembly by then, then this could be a real huge step for Colorado. If not, more waiting.