At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a host of Colorado sportsbooks faced the daunting task of launching operations in the Centennial State even as casinos across the state remained shuttered.
Three companies — BetMGM, Betfred, and FanDuel — secured deals with the Denver Broncos, with FanDuel earning the distinction of becoming the first sportsbook to join forces with an NFL franchise since the league allowed teams to sell sponsorships to sports betting companies. Although Colorado officials permitted fans at Broncos home games in a limited capacity in 2020, the stadium experience at Empower Field at Mile High was far from ideal.
Now, as the Broncos open their home schedule Sunday against the New York Jets, Betfred is finally opening a sports betting tent outside the venue, 12 months after its intended debut. The tent, located on the south end of the stadium, is near the Sports Legend Mall, an expansive lawn space which contains a number of bar and grilling areas, as well as the Broncos’ Ring of Fame.
The Betfred tent features a bar, odds boards, numerous television screens, and lounge access, as the sportsbook attempts to integrate betting into the tailgating experience for Broncos fans.
“We’re really trying to be the tailgating home for people who don’t have tailgates,” Betfred USA Chief Operating Officer Bryan Bennett told CoBets.
In order to celebrate Sunday’s launch, Betfred will host a meet and greet with former Pro Bowl receiver Rod Smith. A two-time Super Bowl champion with the Broncos, Smith made an appearance at a watch party in Week 1 inside the Betfred Sportsbook at Saratoga Casino in Black Hawk.
The event drew the largest crowd Betfred has ever had inside the brick-and-mortar sportsbook, Bennett noted, surpassing attendance for a popular Conor McGregor fight earlier this year. Smith, a native of Texarkana, Ark., has endeared himself to Broncos fans by remaining in Colorado during his retirement and staying active in outreach efforts for several Denver-area charities.
“He’s an amazing guy. He’s one of those people where no matter what you’re doing, it will probably be better if Rod’s there,” Bennett said. “He just brings levity to everything and tells some hilarious tales about his playing days.”
For Sunday’s home opener, customers who sign up for a Betfred account on the sportsbook’s mobile app will receive a 100% wager match up to $500, regardless of the outcome of the initial bet. Betfred staff members will assist fans in how to correctly place a wager on their respective smartphones, in order to help betting newcomers who are unfamiliar with the app.
Your tailgating experience just got a whole lot better 🏈
At every @Broncos home game, all sports fans 21+ can swing by the Betfred Sports South Lawn Lounge and score big with free beer, swag, and bets 🍻💰
— Betfred Sports (@BetfredSports) September 21, 2021
The Broncos, like many teams around the NFL, are finding ways to mix sports betting into the gameday experience.
“In partnership with Betfred, Broncos fans are able to enjoy this one-of-a-kind pregame experience right outside of Empower Field at Mile High,” Max Freeman, the team’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement. “This lounge will allow fans to engage with the team in a unique and exciting way.”
Betfred is not the only sportsbook with a lounge at Mile High. BetMGM has a betting area on the Level 1 Concourse outside Section 111-112. The lounge replaced an area formerly occupied by The Tavern At Mile High. While the lounge is currently in a soft opening phase, the betting area was open for the Broncos’ first preseason game, a BetMGM spokesperson told CoBets.
BetMGM is targeting a late-October date for full launch. Shortly after it opens, BetMGM is planning appearances from Broncos’ alums and other events hosted out of the space. In the meantime, the book is running a promo for ticketholders during the regular season. New and existing BetMGM customers will receive a $25 risk-free bet inside the stadium. If the bet loses, customers will receive up to $25 in additional free bets to be used in the venue at Broncos’ home games.
A 3-0 start?
The Broncos are a 10-point favorite Sunday over the winless Jets at BetMGM. The sportsbook is offering a boosted bet on the Broncos to win by at least 4 points, with an over of 46, for +210.
JETS PREVIEW: Zach Wilson tries to bounce back from his Week 2 disaster against a tough Broncos defense.
— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoSNY) September 24, 2021
FanDuel Sportsbook is the third Colorado sportsbook holding a partnership with the Broncos. FanDuel will have a QR code on every cup holder in the stadium where fans can scan to sign up for the FanDuel Sportsbook, a company spokesman told CoBets.
FanDuel lists the Jets (+750) as the favorite to score the least amount of points Sunday among all 28 NFL teams in action. The Broncos-Jets matchup is also the top choice (+600) to finish as Sunday’s lowest-scoring game. Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson threw four interceptions in a 25-9 Week 2 loss to the Patriots.
The Jets rank 31st of 32 NFL teams in average points scored, with 10 points per game. Denver is seeking its first 3-0 start to a season since 2016.