Neville and Garnett

House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, left, and House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, discuss their bill to let voters decide whether to legalize and tax sports betting in Colorado during the 2019 legislative session. 

Gov. Jared Polis is partnering with a gambling operation; that's news you don't usually hear at the beginning of a reelection campaign.

The reason is jobs. The governor's office notified the press Wednesday morning that the the online sports betting company Tipico picked metro Denver for a technology hub, beating out finalists North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, among about 100 metro areas that were considered.

The hub promises to create 441 jobs over eight years. The company said the average pay would be $96,315 a year.

“We are thrilled to announce, in partnership with Governor Polis, our intention to establish a Tipico Sportsbook technology hub in Denver,” Adrian Vella, the European-based company's U.S. CEO, said in a press release put out by the governor's office. “From the world-class universities and collaborative technology community, down to the well- documented high quality of life in the state, every metric during our nation-wide search pointed us right to Colorado.

"Now that football season is here and our sportsbook is live in the state, we’re confident that the deep pool of technology talent in Colorado will help us take the Tipico brand to the next level in the U.S.”

Colorado voters legalized online sports betting statewide two years ago, 51% to 49%, a difference of about 44,000 votes. Voters, specifically, approved a 10% tax on sports betting operations, which legalized the games.

Colorado allows brick-and-mortar casinos in just three locations: Blackhawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. 

Colorado ranks sixth in the nation in sports bettors, and the National Council on Problem Gambling estimates more than a 102,000 Coloradans, about 2.4% of the adult population, has gambling problem, according to a Fox 31 report in May. The national average is about 1%, according to the council.

The online data site WalletHub ranks Colorado 16th among the most gambling-addicted states, ranking it 28th for friendliness to the industry and eighth for the number of people compared against resources for treatment.

"Problem gambling is gambling behavior which causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational," the Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado explains on its website. "The term 'Problem Gambling; includes, but is not limited to, the condition known as 'Pathological', or 'Compulsive' Gambling, a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, 'chasing' losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences."

The coalition, however, "maintains a position of neutrality of gambling, recognizing that most people who gamble do so for recreation and suffer no serious problems."

The Colorado Gaming Association, the Colorado Lottery and various casinos make up the coalition.

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade said the 17-year-old company currently has 42 employees in Hoboken, N.J., and recently began taking bets in Colorado.

“Colorado voters voted to make Colorado one of the first states to legalize sports betting and use the revenue generated to protect our way of life and precious water resources that support our outdoor recreation economy and agricultural community,” Polis said in a statement. “This move proves what we already know: Colorado is the best place to live and work and 441 new jobs will be created in Colorado thanks to this voter-driven decision.”

Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett, a Democrat from Denver who carried the bipartisan legislation to put the enabling Proposition DD on the ballot in 2019, equated the games to the state's physical landscape. The bill also was sponsored by then-House Republican leader Patrick Neville of Castle Rock, with Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan of Vail and Republican Sen. John Cooke of Greeley.

“It’s great to see Colorado parlay our incredible natural beauty and robust workforce into one of the best places in the country to start or run a business," he said in a statement. "I couldn't be more excited for Tipico to call Colorado home and get in on the action. The Colorado Comeback is in full swing with our state attracting new business, creating jobs, and building back stronger than before." It’s fantastic to see Tipico bet on Colorado, and I look forward to watching them grow in our state.” 

Online betting went into effect in Colorado on May 1 of last year. The governor's office said Wednesday that it generated $65.9 million in taxes its first year on bets of about $2.3 billion. Gambling companies reported about $65 million in profit. The bill marked $100,000 for "prevention, education, treatment and workforce development ... (for) the treatment of gambling disorders."

In June, the most recent numbers available, sportsbook companies paid $1.19 million in state taxes, on $229.8 million wagered by Coloradans, according to the Colorado Division of Gaming.

The Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. gambling company also saluted the expanding gambling footprint.

“We’ve been happy to support Tipico’s selection process and look forward to helping their team become better integrated in the Metro Denver community,” president and CEO J. J. Ament stated. “And on a larger scale, we recognize that they are poised to make a significant impact in our collective efforts to protect Colorado’s water – making this an economic development project that not only creates jobs, but creates a more sustainable future. For that, we’re especially glad they chose our state.”

Denver Gazette report Dennis Huspeni contributed to this story.

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