Colorado Sports Betting Market Thriving One Year Since Launch
When Colorado voters approved sports betting in November 2019, it put a new frontier on the mile-high horizon. Roughly four months later, the world changed.
Despite the presence and uncertainty of COVID-19 shutting everything down last March, Colorado forged ahead with its May 1, 2020 launch date for legalized sports betting. At the one-year anniversary, the results have been encouraging — both in number and in what has been accomplished by a new Colorado betting market in the face of a pandemic.
The state had four major players in the industry go live on the first day: BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings and FanDuel. There currently are 21 online operators and 17 at retail casinos in the mountain towns.
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“We didn’t put a lot of fanfare behind (the launch) because it wasn’t the important story of the day,” Colorado Division of Gaming director Dan Hartman said. “It was important to the folks who did it and hitting those deadlines, but certainly the pandemic was the big story and really where people should focus.”
When focus briefly turned to one of the first bets to land that initial day, it was on Denver Broncos receiver Jerry Jeudy to win offensive rookie of the year — placed by none other than “The King of Park Hill,” Colorado native and 17-year NBA veteran Chauncey Billups.
Within the next two months, the Broncos signed deals with FanDuel. Betfred and BetMGM, becoming the first NFL team to land a sports-betting partnership, let alone multiple ones. Other Colorado professional sports franchises soon followed.
PointsBet Goes Big in Colorado
The Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets and Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League partnered in early August with Australian-based PointsBet, which established its North American headquarters in Denver. A month later, PointsBet entered the college game by striking a deal with the University of Colorado — the first of its kind for a Power 5 conference team.
The Colorado Rockies rounded out partnerships for the state’s major professional teams in deals with DraftKings in September and Betfred in March, roughly a year after the sports world came to a screeching halt.
The limited sports menu for a stretch of 2020, however, didn’t hamper Colorado’s sports wagering, which set consecutive monthly records even as major U.S. leagues were idle.
Growth Spikes When Sports Returned
Betting ramped up at a torrid pace as mainstream sports returned. The continual shattering of monthly wagering records reached its pinnacle in January when the state took in almost $327 million in sports betting handle, breaking December’s then-record of $284.5 million. It also pushed total wagers since inception past the $1 billion mark.
February marked the first regression since sports betting went live in Colorado. February, with the fewest days and with the NFL season concluding, produced $266.5 million in handle. In March, betting rebounded with $301 million in wagers — a record $106.9 million on basketball — and put the total since May 1, 2020 over $2 billion. Mobile sports betting has consistently been at least 95% of the market.
“The growth is absolutely alive and well,” PointsBet director of communications Patrick Eichner said. “The maturation and understanding of the space is a great element that comes with time and experience.”
Colorado Sports Betting Month by Month
|Total Handle||Mobile Handle||Revenue (GGR)|
*Retail sportsbooks were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
**Only combined mobile and retail numbers were available. One retail sportsbook had reopened in June.
Table Tennis Remains a Betting Favorite
Sports that Coloradans most like to bet is similar to the weather in the state — wait a minute and it’ll change. But one constant through the seasons has been table tennis. It led the betting market when options were scarce, and stayed in the top five for nine straight months until falling to sixth in February.
So, why has the sport remained a betting darling? It’s a product of the pandemic.
“It shows you the lasting power of first impressions,” Eichner said. “That was the primary sport in May when Colorado launched sports betting.”
In September 2020 the four major leagues aligned as baseball, football, basketball and hockey, respectively, took the top four spots in monthly revenue for the first time. They combined for almost $135 million in wagers with baseball taking the most at $47.1 million. Rounding out September’s top five was, yes, table tennis.
What Does the Future Hold in Colorado?
When sports betting came to the Colorado ballot, the proposition was tied to supporting the state’s water. A tax on winnings collected by sportsbooks was earmarked for water conservation projects. Since sports betting has exceeded even some conservative expectations in a pandemic-plagued period, the future is promising for what proponents of Proposition DD envisioned. And sportsbook operators have joined the water effort.
A joint campaign by PointsBet, DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM entitled “Colorado Water Wins” will feature a badge emblazoned with that title on all four operators’ advertising in the state. The campaign, proposed by the Environmental Defense Fund to these major Colorado players, aims to reminded that a portion of taxed revenue from sports betting addresses the Colorado Water Plan.
“Bringing that back to light, being able to highlight the good that sports betting is doing for the state,” Eichner said of the campaign. “We greatly value being headquartered here and actively participating and investing in the community where and when we can.”
As sports betting marches on in Colorado, its achievements during unprecedented times has provided a positive barometer for the future.
“Launching in the pandemic with only a few operators gave us a good ramp up as we went through the entire year,” Hartman said. “We’ve been steadily getting more operators on, getting more things going and just seeing that monthly increase as people in Colorado embraced the new form of entertainment. As sports are coming back to normal schedules I think we’ll see that more over the course of later this year and next. We really are kind of settling into a pattern of great increases as we go.”
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