Colorado Government

Charlie Blackmon, MaximBet Team Up to Pitch the Colorado Water Plan

Charlie Blackmon likes to fish.
Charlie Blackmon likes to fish. Courtesy of the Colorado Rockies
On July 6, Charlie Blackmon, the longest-tenured player on the Colorado Rockies and now a brand ambassador for MaximBet, tweeted about a topic that no one in the Colorado sports-betting industry ever talks about.

"Hey everybody, important reminder from my friends [at MaximBet USA] and [at Water4Colorado]. Taxes from sports betting fund Water Plan — projects that protect and conserve rivers, farming and drinking water," Blackmon wrote, encouraging people to share their feedback on a Colorado Water Plan update.

Not only is Blackmon the first MLB player to partner with a sports-betting company, he's apparently the first to actually know where the majority of the sports-betting tax revenue goes in Colorado.

In 2019, Colorado lawmakers, led by then-House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, passed a bipartisan measure that put an initiative on the ballot asking voters whether they wanted to legalize the sports-betting industry in Colorado and place a 10 percent tax on sportsbook winnings. Most of that tax money would go to the Colorado Water Plan, a program created during Governor John Hickenlooper's administration designed to ensure that the state has water for drinking, farming and recreating for years to come. But given the current drought and the rapidly dwindling Colorado River (the feds have given a deadline of August 15 for states to come up with a proposal on how to allocate that resource), the Colorado Water Plan has gained added importance.

In the run-up to the November 2019 election, the campaign pushing Proposition DD focused almost exclusively on the water sustainability benefits for the state that would come from the legalization of sports betting.

A slim majority of Colorado voters ended up approving the measure, with a start date for legal sports gambling of May 1, 2020. Since then, sports-betting companies have spent almost no time playing up the state's liquid assets in their promotions.

Enter Charlie Blackmon.

Aside from being an excellent hitter, a familiar bearded face in right field and the guy whose walk-up song is "Your Love," Blackmon happens to be someone who loves fishing, particularly fly-fishing.

"I want to catch the big fat brown trout," Blackmon says. And where does he like to catch that fish? "Huh, wouldn’t you like to know," he responds. "I do spend a lot of time in Deckers."

In April, MaximBet, which launched its first state sports-betting app in Colorado last September, announced that it would be partnering with Blackmon, someone very Colorado, according to Doug Terfehr, the vice president of marketing for the Carousel Group, the parent company to MaximBet.

"The guy has got a great look. A very distinct swag and very cool style that is fitting of Maxim and the Maxim brand," Terfehr adds. "Most people in Denver recognize Charlie and understand that Charlie's primary interests outside of baseball are his family and the outdoors."

When MaximBet announced the Blackmon partnership, Brian Jackson, who works for the Environmental Defense Fund and was a major proponent of Proposition DD, gave the company a friendly nudge.

"It was like, 'Wow, this is a perfect confluence of sports and sports betting and water and rivers with Charlie,'" Jackson says. "I called them up and said, 'Hey, whether you thought of it or not, this is an amazing opportunity to make that connection for MaximBet and Charlie Blackmon and Colorado, and a place where you can be the leader in the industry and making that connection.'"

Terfehr says that MaximBet will continue to talk about the Colorado Water Plan "through Charlie and through the messaging and the campaigns that we’re developing."

But Jackson is disappointed that no other sports-betting companies are really pushing the plan, though four more — FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and PointsBet — are participating in the "Colorado Water Wins" campaign and have placed "Colorado Water Wins" badges on advertising.

"Rather than just blasting everybody with free bets and annoying ads, it'd be awesome to have some fun with the water connections," Jackson says.

Sports betting has actually had a trickle-down economic effect on the Colorado Water Plan. In just over two years, the industry has accounted for $6.9 billion worth of wagering, which resulted in the state collecting over $16.8 million in taxes, with the vast majority of that going toward water projects.

For Blackmon, who once caught a seventy-pound tarpon in Belize, pushing the plan was a no-brainer.

"Responsible gaming and the fact that the taxes from sports betting go to help water conservation were important messages for me to support as part of the partnership," he says. "MaximBet has been very supportive of those initiatives, which makes talking about it easy."
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.