Colorado Looks Well Positioned To Add iGaming Alongside Sports Betting

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In 2019 Colorado voters legalized sports betting, in 2020 they could give some control over gaming to local citizens, and in 2021 (or beyond) they could decide to legalize iGaming. According to the director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, Dan Hartman, who was speaking at a Global Gaming Expo event on Thursday, a referendum would be required in Colorado to continue the state’s expansion of gaming.

“It’s going to take a statewide vote to get iGaming,” he said during a conversation about which states across the U.S. are poised to add playing casino games from mobile devices. The panel, titled “Will the Land-based Shutdown Encourage More Markets to Legalize Remote Betting?” included stakeholders from Indiana, where an iGaming bill is in the works for 2021; a consultant; and a representative from Penn National Gaming, which along with Barstool Sports is partnered with the Ameristar Resort in Black Hawk. The resort, which opened a temporary retail sportsbook in August, is scheduled to launch a Barstool-branded retail book on Nov. 5.

Panelists suggested that a silver lining of the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions is that lawmakers and citizens in states with any kind of digital gaming have become more comfortable with the concept, which in the future could make it easier to legalize.

“What I think we and other states are proving is if we can get people comfortable with the off-site registration and internet betting, then you are going to be one step ahead when it comes to iGaming,” Hartman said.

Colorado launched digital sports betting first

In Colorado, more than a dozen retail sportsbooks and more than 10 digital sportsbooks have opened since state regulators launched sports betting on May 1. On that day, BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings, and FanDuel all went live with digital apps.

The state has taken in $814,000 in tax revenue since sports betting went live — and the first two months of live sports betting were during pandemic-related shutdowns of retail sportsbooks and professional sports. In September, sportsbooks took in $207.7 million in handle.

Legal sports betting in Colorado has taken a different path than it has in other states. In most cases, retail sportsbooks are the first to open, with digital following, sometimes months later. But in Colorado, with the pandemic restrictions in place, digital sports wagering went first and retail locations began opening months later. What that means is that Colorado regulators don’t yet have a complete picture of what sports betting will really look like — but they do know that the online option has not kept patrons from visiting casinos and sportsbooks.

“We’re seeing those [land-based] numbers rise,” Hartman said. “Now we’re seeing some numbers start to generate in those land-based casinos. I think that will start to drive new customers. Getting foot traffic into the mountain towns in Colorado where gaming started, that was one of the things talked about with the bill, and we’re seeing that happening and seeing the numbers come up right along with it.”

In September, $3.8 million of gross gaming revenue was online and $403,259 was retail. Those numbers — which represent about a 90%-10% split — are in line with states that had both digital and retail options before the pandemic.

 

 

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Jill Dorson

Jill has covered everything from steeplechase to the NFL and then some during a more than 30-year career in sports journalism. The highlight of her career was covering Oakland Raiders during the Charles Woodson/Jon Gruden era, including the infamous “Snow Bowl” and the Raiders’ 2003 trip to Super Bowl XXXVII. Her specialty these days is covering sports betting legislation across the country.

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