Colorado Dems Quash Effort to Examine Polis’ Ties to Sports Betting Industry

Posted on: September 30, 2022, 01:05h. 

Last updated on: September 30, 2022, 01:17h.

Colorado’s bipartisan Legislative Audit Committee wasn’t so bipartisan Wednesday when it voted 4-4 along party lines in opting not to examine whether or not Gov. Jared Polis’ (D-CO) business interests, potentially including ownership of a gaming stock, allowed him to personally profit from legislation he advanced.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) speaks at a 2021 coronavirus briefing. An audit committee won’t examine his alleged sports betting investments. (Image: Associated Press)

The 4-4 tie is essentially a victory for the Democrats, which control Colorado politics, meaning there will be no audit of the governor’s business dealings. State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) brought the request to the committee, reportedly sharing engrossing evidence that the governor gained from sports betting legislation he signed into law.

Sonnenberg also alleged Polis never followed through on a 2018 campaign promise to put his personal holdings into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest. Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) did that when he was governor and mayor of Denver, reports The Colorado Gazette.

Democrats dismissed Sonnenberg’s demands for an audit as election-year posturing while pondering whether or not the audit committee can examine the governor’s personal financial interests. No answer was provided.

Examining Sonnenberg’s Claims

In November 2019, Colorado voters approved Proposition DD, a ballot initiative to legalize sports wagering to direct revenue to the state’s water projects.

Due to the fact that sports betting revenue is taxed and that the tax was new in Colorado, voters had the final say in the matter under the terms of the state’s constitution. But in 2018, Polis signed a bill allowing Prop DD to be included on the November 2019 ballot.

According to media reports, Sonnenberg claimed that in advance of Polis signing that legislation, he owned shares of FanDuel. Assuming that’s true and to be precise, the governor owned stock in Flutter Entertainment (OTC: PDYPY), which owns 95% of FanDuel. Boyd Gaming (NYSE: BYD) owns the other 5%.

Citing disclosures Polis made when he was a congressman, Sonnenberg notes the governor was a Flutter investor from at least some time in 2015 through May 2019 — the month in which he approved the Prop DD legislation.

FanDuel — the largest online sportsbook operator in the US — contributed $250K to pro-Prop DD initiatives. Polis’ office didn’t respond to a request for comment from prior to the publication of this article.

Interesting Optics, Timing

Polis is facing off against Republican Holly Ganahl in his quest to win a second term, and no polls indicate that this will be a competitive race.

Across the country, however, voters’ disdain for politicians profiting from “sweetheart” deals and information the public doesn’t have access to is the rare issue with bipartisan support.

In Colorado, the timing of Democrats declining to examine Polis’ purported Flutter investment is interesting because it comes just days after a group of their counterparts in Congress stalled legislation that would have barred members from owning individual stocks.

Three members of Colorado’s congressional delegation — two Democrats, including Hickenlooper, and a Republican — are among 72 members of the House and Senate that have run afoul of the STOCK Act. In all three cases, the violations aren’t necessarily egregious and boil down to late disclosures and filings.

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