Colorado Head of Gaming: Sports Betting Launch Went ‘Great’

Colorado Head of Gaming: Sports Betting Launch Went ‘Great’
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Colorado’s sports betting market launched Friday — albeit without major sports to bet on — but it was still a milestone day for the state and U.S. sports betting.

Dan Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, said Friday that “things went great. We were live at 10 (a.m. local time).”

“We have an app that shows when and where people log in from and they started filling up from across the state,” Hartman said. “I was extremely proud of the process and of my team. When the first bet was placed and others started to drop, it was a huge relief and a huge win.”

Sports betting apps in the state can be downloaded to a smartphone and Colorado rules let bettors remotely establish and feed accounts. That’s a departure from other states where customers must first establish accounts at a brick-and-mortar casino.

RELATED: More on Colorado Sports Betting

Six sportsbooks in Colorado were approved to begin and four launched Friday, Hartman said. DraftKings, BetMGM, BetRivers and FanDuel are running and Hartman expected the other two, SBK (or getsbk) and Monarch Casino Resort Spa, to be up the first part of next week after working out some technical things.

When BetRivers went live Friday, it quickly noted when the first bet landed — a wager on Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to win rookie of the year. Chauncey Billups, a former University of Colorado basketball star who played 17 seasons in the NBA, including two stints with the Denver Nuggets, placed the bet.

Hartman said he thinks “you probably had a big rush on ‘Broncos to win the Super Bowl’ bets. I would expect a number of bets on the Broncos and Rockies. When they come back, fans will have something there.”

Sportsbooks Are ‘Thrilled,’ ‘Excited’ With Launch

For DraftKings, Colorado is the seventh state it offers its mobile and online products.

“We are thrilled to introduce Colorado’s passionate sports fans to DraftKings Sportsbook, the nation’s favorite mobile and online sports betting platform,” Matt Kalish, co-founder and president of DraftKings North America, said in a news release. “Customers across the state will always have a number of year-round, skin-in-the-game opportunities to engage with the premier sports betting experience DraftKings prides itself on.”

DraftKings has broadened its partnership with Twin River Worldwide Holdings, Inc. at recently acquired Mardi Gras Casino in Black Hawk and will be launching retail sportsbook in the future. It will be the company’s seventh retail location, with locations in Iowa (Wild Rose – three locations), Mississippi (Scarlet Pearl), New Jersey (Resorts) and New York (del Lago).

FanDuel Group launched its mobile and online platform Friday in partnership with Twin River Worldwide Holdings and Golden Gates Casino Black Hawk. Colorado is the fifth state where FanDuel’s app is available.

“Colorado is home to a passionate group of sports fans and we are incredibly excited to show them why FanDuel is the number one online sportsbook in the country,” Mike Raffensperger, chief marketing officer of FanDuel Group, said in a news release. “Our free to play ANYTHINGBOOK game is designed to engage fans during this period of limited sporting events and introduce them to FanDuel Sportsbook’s unique features and markets.”

Roar Digital, a joint venture between MGM Resorts GVC Holdings, announced Friday that it has entered “an exclusive primary skin agreement” with Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino in Cripple Creek. Roar will offer online sports wagering throughout Colorado under the BetMGM brand.

“We look forward to offering Colorado sports fans the excitement and ease of betting with BetMGM and working alongside Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino to provide top class betting experiences in the state of Colorado,” said Adam Greenblatt, CEO of Roar Digital. “With a limited sports schedule currently, it’s the perfect time for new customers to learn how to use our feature-rich sports wagering product, ahead of the return of U.S. sports.”

May 1 Was Always The Goal

When voters in November passed Proposition DD, which legalized sports betting and earmarked revenue to water conservation efforts, Colorado’s Division of Gaming began working to launch on May 1, the date set for the start of the market in the new law. The Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission began approving licenses in February and continued until Thursday.

In between, the coronavirus pandemic hit and shut down the sports world.

”It was a curveball, but you’re dealing with sports and you’ll have curveballs somewhere,” Hartman said. “But we caught up and the team hit it out of the park.”

When the state allows the 33 casinos in the Western gaming towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek to reopen, sportsbooks in those facilities can also begin taking bets. The casinos have been closed since March 16 by the state because of the coronavirus pandemic. The state is beginning to ease its stay-at-home order, which expired on April 26, but a date to reopen casinos has not been announced.

Hartman gave a nod to industry stakeholders and the gaming commission for helping the state set fair regulations and launch on time. It is the 18th state with legal sports betting.

”The smoothness of the process and getting up and running is a tribute to the industry coming forward,” Hartman said. “I put some tight timelines on them and they dropped what they were doing to talk with us about what would work best and how we can do it.

”The stakeholders, the leagues and responsible gaming were all part of the conversation and that’s why we think we came up with great regulations. If you listen and take the time to listen, you get a great product. And we did listen.”

Waiting for More Sports to Bet on

For now, there are international table tennis and eSports to bet on. When major sports return — including the four professional teams (Broncos of the NFL, Rockies of MLB, Nuggets of NBA and Avalanche of NHL) in Colorado — the market should be booming for its more than 5 million residents.

”In the meantime, people have this form of entertainment,” Hartman said. “It gives fans something to do. There is this excitement, they have this entertainment they can do from their couch.

”Sports are sports. We have a great catalog here. But people need content. Maybe if you open with the big four (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA), people don’t access the rest of the catalog and we have a great catalog. Now they are looking at the extent of it and seeing other stuff to bet on.”

Hartman said he will be happy when sports return.

“Absolutely, I was having a conversation with someone from MLB today and it’s great to launch, but I can’t wait to be in the stands at Coors Field again,” he said.

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