Colorado is off to the races.
After a contentious battle on Election Night, a series of licensing hearings, and the completion of an exhaustive rulemaking process complicated by the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado operators were set to launch mobile sports betting as early as 10 a.m. MT Friday. While retail casinos remain shut for the time being, a host of prominent companies planned to roll out glitzy apps in the Centennial State.
On Friday, archrivals DraftKings and FanDuel were set to unveil mobile betting apps in time for the state’s mandated launch of legalized sports betting. They were joined by two others – BetMGM and BetRivers – as the major players rolled out apps despite the ongoing global sports freeze. As a result, their offerings were mostly limited to obscure markets such as Russian table tennis.
In an odd twist of fate, Colorado’s customer-friendly regulations on remote registration appear to be a major win for the sportsbooks as casinos stay closed during the nationwide crisis. Had the state imposed strict regulations that required customers to open sportsbook accounts inside retail casinos, the launch of mobile betting likely would have been pushed back from the state’s May 1 target. The state’s 33 non-tribal, licensed casinos are located in three mountain communities that can be hard to reach for many Colorado residents, necessitating the liberal registration policies.
As of May 1, the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (LGCC) had issued Temporary Internet Sports Betting Operator Licenses to at least 19 companies over the past three months. While the majority of licensed operators opted to delay their mobile launch until several top professional sports resume play, roughly a dozen Colorado books could roll out apps before the end of the summer.
“We are thrilled to debut our BetRivers.com brand in Colorado and offer sports bettors our unique and compelling player experience that our customers in other states already enjoy,” Rush Street Interactive President Richard Schwartz said in a statement. “We know sports bettors throughout the state of Colorado are really going to appreciate the ease and convenience of being able to place wagers online from the comfort of their homes.”
“We are eager for Colorado players to give our BetRivers.com web/mobile site a try to see why so many players in other states have chosen to bet with our sportsbook.”
With its entry into the Colorado market, FanDuel’s online and mobile platform is now available in five states nationwide. FanDuel is eager to introduce its proprietary account and wallet technology that enables Colorado customers to use fantasy sports and sportsbook winnings interchangeably. Upon this month’s launch, FanDuel is also offering a daily free to play game where customers can test their sports and pop culture knowledge for the chance to win various cash prizes.
“Colorado is home to a passionate group of sports fans,” FanDuel CMO Mike Raffensperger said in a statement. “Our free to play game is designed to engage fans during this period of limited sporting events and introduce them to FanDuel Sportsbook’s unique features and markets.”
The return of pro sports
As numerous states around the country mull the reopening of businesses in the public and private sector, major North American pro leagues are considering plans for returning without fans in the venues. With the cancellation of March Madness and the postponement of several pro sports seasons, sportsbooks nationwide are projected to lose at least $350 million, an industry source told COBets.
Lebron James took to Twitter on Wednesday to push for the resumption of the NBA regular season, assuming conditions are safe enough. The NBA initially planned to allow teams to reopen their facilities to individual players on May 1, but it moved the date back a week under an abundance of caution.
Saw some reports about execs and agents wanting to cancel season??? That’s absolutely not true. Nobody I know saying anything like that. As soon as it’s safe we would like to finish our season. I’m ready and our team is ready. Nobody should be canceling anything. 👑
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 30, 2020
Two Denver-area pro teams, the Nuggets and the NHL’s Avalanche, are among the favorites in their respective leagues to capture titles in 2020 if the seasons resume. The Nuggets have odds of 30/1 to win the NBA Championship at most DraftKings sportsbooks around the country. Meanwhile, the book has pegged the Avalanche as co-third choice with the Vegas Golden Knights to hoist the Stanley Cup (odds of 10/1). It is important to note that the odds could differ considerably in Colorado given the heavy regional bias among Colorado sports bettors.
DraftKings also offered odds of 40/1 on the Denver Broncos to win to capture Super Bowl LV, in line with odds on the Broncos at other DraftKings’ sites around the country and odds of 25/1 on the Rockies to win the World Series. In college football, both Colorado and Colorado State are 500/1 to win the CFP National Championship.
Former Nuggets All-Star guard Chauncey Billups placed the first wager at BetRivers, a $100 bet on Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The Broncos selected the Alabama wideout with the No. 15 pick at last week’s NFL Draft.
Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-522-4700 pic.twitter.com/T2oZUfBa9l
— BetRivers (@BetRivers) May 1, 2020
“This is huge for the state of Colorado, both for the economy and for avid sports fans in the state,” Billups said in a press release. “Betting has become such a big part of the daily sports conversation and this move is a huge step in the right direction for the industry and the sports world.”
A prominent Las Vegas operator, the SuperBook USA, does not plan on making its Colorado debut until there are strong indications that multiple sports league are nearing a return. Alternatively, the SuperBook may consider accepting bets in Colorado this fall if the NFL starts its regular season on time.
Happy to celebrate
Another Colorado newcomer, Las Vegas-based Circa Sports, has been forced to adjust its timeline due to the COVID-19 crisis. Although Circa has not set an exact launch date, company representatives hope to be live in Colorado by early June at the latest.
“The timeline is fluid but when Circa Sports does go live we look forward to providing a transparent marketplace that welcomes all bettors,” Circa Sportsbook Operations Manager Jeffrey Benson told COBets.
Good morning, Colorado. TODAY, sports betting officially launches. WE DID IT!
As a citizen, my first legal wager made (via mobile, of course):
— Brad Evans (@NoisyHuevos) May 1, 2020
Betfred USA, which has a partnership with Saratoga Casino in Black Hawk, is close to wrapping up construction on a retail sportsbook inside the property. Betfred has conducted business as usual in recent weeks in terms of the planning phase of the buildout, Betfred USA CEO Bryan Bennett told COBets.
“If the casinos were allowed to open in May, our retail book will open in May as originally planned,” he said.
Meanwhile, Score Media and Gaming Inc. will look to Colorado as another market to tap as the Toronto-based company continues to expand its U.S. sports betting operations. Publicly traded on the TSX Venture Exchange, theScore launched the company’s mobile sports betting app, theScore Bet, in New Jersey last September.
“We can’t wait to launch theScore Bet in Colorado, and are busy preparing to deliver Colorado sports fans a totally unique and integrated betting and media experience in the coming months,” said John Levy, founder and CEO of theScore.
“We’re all looking forward to seeing sports safely resume and start to provide some much-needed relief in these challenging times,” Levy told COBets. “As that unfolds, we’ll be prepared with a best-in-class media & sportsbook offering, helping sports fans re-engage with the teams, players and games they love.”
Two others, BetMonarch and Smarkets, have completed all background testing from the state and are close to going live. Smarkets, a European-based company, has developed a reputation for setting odds on political elections. For now, betting on the U.S. presidential election is not allowed in Colorado. Smarkets also offers betting lines on dozens of sports, including cricket, darts and rugby.
“We’re big on politics so even though now is a tough time for betting operators, it’s a chance for us to showcase our range of markets,” Smarkets spokesperson Pascal Lemesre told COBets.
Monarch Casino in Black Hawk plans to launch BetMonarch on May 8, one day before UFC 249.
Colorado went live Friday, one day after the LGCC issued Master Sports Betting Licenses to two Black Hawk casinos at an emergency meeting. With the licensing action, all 33 non-tribal, retail casinos in Colorado have received license approval for sports betting. The commission overcame considerable challenges throughout the licensing process amid the shutdown.
“It’s nice to have a bit of a celebration with everything that has gone on,” LGCC chair Kristen Blessman said at the meeting.