Add another state to the prospective candidates for iGaming.
Colorado Department of Revenue Executive Director Mark Ferrandino told the crowd during his keynote speech at the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States that officials in the Centennial State are discussing the possibility of offering online casino gaming along with Colorado sportsbooks.
Ferrandino, who earlier this week was appointed by Gov. Jared Polis to become the state’s next director of the Office for State Planning and Budgeting, mentioned some of the initiatives underway in the state, such as its investments in funding responsible gaming and creating a state-run exclusion list Colorado casinos and gaming operators can utilize.
“When we think about the future, I think the real conversation, especially on the lottery and on the gaming side, is iLottery and iGaming, and what’s going to happen there,” said Ferrandino, who also served as the state Speaker of the House a decade ago. “So, we are starting to have conversations in Colorado about what does that look like. How could we move that forward by Colorado.”
Such action would take voter approval, which is how Colorado sports betting was legalized nearly four years ago.
Online casino gaming is currently available in six states. Rhode Island will join the group next spring after lawmakers passed a bill there last month.
“We’re looking towards you to learn from you about what worked (and) what didn’t work as we look to see is this something we in Colorado want to do,” he said.
iGaming Growth Sluggish
Online casino gaming has existed longer than sports betting in most of the U.S. However, it remained in New Jersey and Delaware for years before it caught on elsewhere.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped raise awareness of iGaming nationally as casino operators in other states saw that New Jersey operators could generate some revenue while their brick-and-mortar locations were closed.
Yet, even with that, the momentum has not been built in the U.S. as it has for sports betting, including operators like BetMGM Sportsbook Colorado.
During a presentation earlier Thursday, gaming lawyer Jeff Ifrah mentioned a point discussed during a GLI seminar Wednesday. Much of the talk surrounding iGaming is about the revenue it would create for a state. However, that’s not necessarily a talking point to win over lawmakers in a few states.
“It’s hard to go, for example, into Texas, when they are like $6 billion in surplus, and say ‘Hey, let me talk to you about some more revenue even if you don’t need it,’” he said.
The better talking point to win over lawmakers, he said, is to tout iGaming as a way to protect consumers, create jobs and bring technology to communities.
If Not Colorado…
While Colorado is a new state to the iGaming discussion, other states have been considered candidates to legalize it for several years.
Bills have been introduced in states like Indiana and Illinois but have yet to be successful. Maryland officials are planning to award a contract for a consultant to study the issue, which may come up next year in Annapolis, and New York state Sen. Joseph Addabbo has called on his state to legalize online casinos to generate new revenue streams the state needs to fend off forecasted budget shortfalls.
Despite those iGaming efforts, lawmakers have had better luck getting approval for sports betting — including Colorado betting apps — as Kentucky and North Carolina both received legislative approval for sports wagering this summer.