Betsson Views Colorado As Trial Balloon For U.S. Sports Betting Expansion

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Capitalizing on a growing trend among European sportsbook operators, Betsson AB detailed plans in late June to expand into the U.S. sports betting market through an online partnership with Dostal Alley Casino and Brewpub in Central City.

For Betsson AB CEO Pontus Lindwall, Colorado’s low comparative tax rates and reasonable license fees made the state an ideal fit for the company’s U.S. debut. Betsson, one of Europe’s largest online gaming companies, views the market access deal as part of its comprehensive strategy to expand into new, regulated markets without taking on considerable risk. Listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm Large Cap Index, Betsson intends to launch in Colorado during the first half of 2021.

“Colorado is a carefully chosen market for the start of our U.S. entry,” Lindwall told CoBets. “We will obtain the formal approval by the regulator to operate online sports betting in the state and we will then tailor-make the sportsbook offering to suit the American market.”

Proprietary technology

One way Betsson hopes to gain a leg up on its competition is through the development of its own in-house sportsbook technology platform. Over time, Betsson intends to eventually market the platform to other sportsbook operators as a Business-to-Business (B2B) product, according to Lindwall.

Despite the allure of partnering with a major operator like FanDuel or DraftKings, there are advantages for smaller books to develop their own sports betting technology. Monarch Casino Resort Spa, for instance, maintains in-house operations for sports betting in part to avoid the complexities of working with a third-party provider. Betsson employs a similar model.

“By using our proprietary sportsbook, we can be more flexible in our odds setting and adjust our offering by choosing the relevant events and markets and at the same time have full control of both front end and back end,” Lindwall said.

Dostal Alley, which holds the distinction of operating the only brewery in Gilpin County, received sports betting license approval from the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission in February.

“As a company with over 28 years in the gaming business, we are thrilled to welcome Betsson to the U.S. as we partner with them for online sports betting in Colorado,” Dostal Alley CFO CinDee Spellman said in a statement. “With their decades of experience in online gaming we are confident that they will bring the very best experience to players in the Centennial State.”

Betsson has not indicated if it will consider opening a retail sportsbook, following next year’s mobile launch. The company has also not disclosed if it has any plans for installing sports betting kiosks into Dostal Alley’s gaming hall in time for the Super Bowl.

Pesäpallo anyone?

Peruse Betsson’s European gaming site on a given afternoon and you are bound to find betting lines on a plethora of unconventional niche sports. Given the company’s proximity to Finland, it does not come as a surprise that Betsson offers lines on the Finnish Superpesis, the nation’s top league for pesäpallo. The fast-moving sport, which draws comparisons to baseball, is widely viewed as the national sport of Finland.

Besides pesäpallo, Betsson currently has lines on other niche sports such as: badminton, cricket, darts, handball, netball, table tennis and snooker. The vast majority of the sports received inclusion in the Colorado Division of Gaming’s expansive sports betting catalog, released earlier this spring. The statewide handle for table tennis in May dwarfed a number of household sports, as wagering activity more than tripled that of baseball, soccer and golf.

Betsson’s European books also accept wagers on numerous winter sports, ranging from World Cup skiing to biathlon, as well as cross-country skiing and ski jumping. The offerings could appeal to bettors in Colorado, a haven for winter sports. Betsson has yet to determine if it will offer bets on U.S. soil on pesäpallo or any of the winter sports.

“The Americans mainly bet on American football and basketball, however, we are likely to offer markets also on other relevant sports which the American-based players are interested in betting on,” Lindwall said.

While Betsson has yet to establish a U.S.-based trading team, Lindwall noted that the company aims to start with a small setup and build from the ground up, with no major investments necessary.

Betsson is not the only European operator to take a shot in Colorado. Last month, Betfred USA opened a retail sportsbook at Saratoga Black Hawk, ahead of its planned mobile debut in the Colorado market later this year. In May, U.K.-headquartered Bet 365 signed a 10-year sports betting agreement with Century Casinos, the owner of two casinos in Colorado, and in early June, U.K.-based Smarkets made its U.S. debut  with its mobile app in Colorado.

 

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Matt is a veteran writer with a specific focus on the emerging sports gambling market. During Matt's two decade career in journalism, he has written for the New York Times, Forbes, The Guardian, Reuters and CBSSports.com among others. In his spare time, Matt is an avid reader, a weekend tennis player and a frequent embarrassment to the sport of running.

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