Why I voted “no” on Proposition DD

Proposition DD on the November 5 ballot would legalize gambling on amateur and professional sports and tax the proceeds at a rate of 10% to pay for “water projects,” purportedly projects proposed in the Colorado Water Plan.  I wasn’t sure how to vote on Prop DD until I did some research on it and put some thought into. What I found convinced me to vote “no.”

Here’s what I found out:

  1. Proposition DD is almost completely funded by out-of-state corporations. — As of October 28, 2019, FanDuel, a gambling company on Park Avenue in New York City, contributed $1.35 million towards passing the measure. Draft Kings, a sports gambling corporation in Boston, Massachusetts, contributed half a million dollars. Of the millions raised and spent to promote Prop DD to voters, Colorado-based interests contributed only a little over $100,000 — hardly anything. The measure is largely being pushed by out-of-state entities for their own financial benefit, with little thought having gone into its ramifications for Colorado citizens.
  2. The measure doesn’t specify what “water projects” would be funded. –The “water projects” the measure would fund could include more dams, which are environmentally harmful, lining irrigation canals, which would be beneficial. We don’t know, nor do we have any say in what the measure will fund.
  3. Proposition DD puts just $130,000 a year into treating gambling addiction, a ridiculously inadequate amount. My husband, a certified addictions counselor in Grand Junction, says $130k/year “would treat maybe two people.” And Prop DD doesn’t allow for the amount to grow with increased sports betting activity. My husband also feels the measure will disproportionately affect lower-income and more financially-desperate populations. So the big take-away is that Proposition DD lets major corporations bring a known social ill — gambling addiction — into the state while making Colorado taxpayers foot the bill for the problems it brings. This a corporate behavior is known as “privatizing the profits while socializing the losses.”
  4. There is no nexus, or relationship, between water and gambling. While working on increasing Colorado’s cigarette tax years ago, we were instructed that good legislation will provide a “nexus” between what is being taxed and what the tax is paying for. That made sense. It’s also why Colorado’s cigarette tax goes toward paying for treatment to help people quit smoking, and not road repairs, prisons or schools. The cigarette tax funds the Colorado QuitLine, which offers counseling and medications to treat nicotine addiction. The idea was to link an increase in the cigarette tax — which itself is known to reduce smoking — to treatment methodologies that are known to be effective at decreasing smoking. That mades the cigarette tax a net social positive for the state across the board.

There is no similar relationship between gambling and water. A more thoughtful measure might propose something like charging a small fee on the use of excessive amounts of water, and then putting those funds towards paying for environmentally beneficial water projects. That would encourage water conservation while funding water projects, and provide a net benefit to the state’s residents across the board. Proposition DD isn’t like that. DD would create a huge social negative for Colorado — it would increase gambling addiction and the costs of treating the disorder — to pay for water projects. A tax shouldn’t ramp up one known problem in order to solve a wholly unrelated problem, especially at this time when we’re all focusing more on mental health and how it relates to public safety. It’s almost as though the big companies that are promoting this measure first cooked up a way to legalize sports betting in Colorado for their own financial benefit, and then looked around for an issue to link it to that Coloradans would buy into without thinking much. That issue was water.

  1. Gambling is subject to economic downturns, making Proposition DD’s funding stream unpredictable. 

If you really explore Proposition DD, you will find a poorly-crafted measure written to benefit out-of-state corporations, instead of a thoughtful measure that would be a net benefit across the board for Colorado.

We shouldn’t gamble with something as important as our water. On a matter this important, we need people who solely have the state’s best interests at heart to craft this kind of legislation. Experts in areas like water policy and taxing policy should put their heads together and figure out the best way to fund the most beneficial water projects. We shouldn’t leave the future of something as important as our water — or our state’s collective mental health — to fantasy football companies to figure out for us.

 

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