Welcome To The Parlay Party: Colorado Sports Bettors Show Proclivity For Risk

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Less than seven months since the launch of legalized sports betting in Colorado, parlays have become all the rage in the Centennial State.

Peruse a list of notable payouts during the unprecedented fall sports calendar of 2020 and you will come across a host of creative wagers. When the Denver Nuggets outlasted the Utah Jazz in Game 7 of the Western Conference Playoffs first round, a Colorado bettor turned a $10 ticket into a win of $11,094, after hitting a 5-leg Same Game Parlay at FanDuel. Four days later, on Sept. 5, another FanDuel bettor pulled off a more impressive feat when his $20, 11-leg parlay from Game 4 of the Celtics-Raptors series cashed for $10,505.

Colorado bettors are even turning to obscure sports and leagues when playing parlays. On Sept. 7, a bettor at BetMGM won $109,100 on a $50,000, 2-team parlay when he hit puck-line wagers on CSKA Moscow against Barys Astana and Avangard Omsk over Amur Khabarovsk.

Across the state, sportsbook operators are writing tickets on parlays in droves. In August, bettors wagered about $22.6 million in the “parlay/combination” category, representing about 18% of the monthly handle, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue’s monthly report. The figure nearly tripled the $8.64 million wagered in July, a month in which the handle for parlays and comparable bets such as teasers and round robins made up 14.6% of the state’s handle. Since legal sports betting went live in May, the percentage of Colorado’s overall handle generated from parlays has steadily ticked up each month.

“The increase in the percentage of parlays being played may speak to the early sophistication of the market and maybe the transition to the regulated operators. The increases across the board are exciting, and we are encouraged by the pace of acceptance by Colorado players.” Colorado Division of Gaming Director Dan Hartman told CoBets via email.

Comparisons with other states

Of the sportsbook executives who have made their presence felt in the nascent Colorado market, Jay Rood is one of the foremost experts on parlays. Rood, the chief risk officer of Bet.Works’ trading team, previously served as vice president of race & sports at MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas. Rood, who spent more than two decades with MGM Resorts through 2019, noted that parlays typically represented about 13% of the monthly handle in Nevada during his tenure with the company. While parlay activity in Colorado is in line with rates from Nevada, Rood believes the figure may continue to exceed the threshold due to the proliferation of mobile sports betting.

“I believe that Colorado will continue to maintain the mix in this range for the long term, as online will encourage this type of play with the ease of user experience,” Rood told CoBets.

Bet.Works powers the sports betting technology for Elite Sportsbook in Colorado while managing the company’s odds and risk management responsibilities. A unique offering from Elite rewards bettors with payouts on large parlays, even when several legs are unsuccessful.

Beyond Nevada, parlays actually predate single-game sports wagering in Delaware. In 2012, a 34-year-old bettor hit the jackpot on Delaware Sports Lottery’s $100,000 parlay card by finishing a perfect 15-for-15 on the weekly football card. The resident of Camden, N.J., became the first bettor to pull off the improbable feat (odds of 32,000/1) since the Delaware Lottery launched the parlay contest in 2010. By 2017, a year before the Supreme Court’s historic PASPA decision, sales for the Delaware Sports Lottery jumped to $46.1 million in 2016-17, a spike of 17% over the previous year.

Farther north, bettors in the Garden State wagered about $879.5 million on parlays last year, according to the 2019 annual report of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, good for about 19.3% of the state’s sports betting handle. A year earlier, New Jersey bettors wagered more than $203 million on parlays during the state’s first six months of legalized sports gambling, representing approximately 16.4% of the handle on completed events. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board doesn’t track parlay activity in its annual report, while the Indiana Gaming Commission does not have a bucket for parlays on a monthly basis.

As a whole, Americans wagered $13 billion on sports in commercial casinos last year, according to the American Gaming Association. If sports bettors across the nation are playing parlays at a similar rate as Coloradans, Americans would have spent more than $2.3 billion on parlays in 2019.

Many parlays offer a boom-or-bust proposition. Take the aforementioned FanDuel parlays, for instance. The bettor on the Jazz-Nuggets wager included three risky legs on his 5-team parlay: Jamal Murray Under 21.5 points (+792), Donovan Mitchell Under 24.5 points (+537) and Total Points Scored Under 191.5 (+919). One game earlier, Murray and Mitchell put on a show combining for 94 points in the Nuggets’ 119-107 victory.

By comparison, the Celtics-Raptors parlay included 10 legs with negative odds (where a bettor needed to risk at least $110 to win back $100). Only one of the 11 legs had odds in positive territory.

PlayerPropOdds
Pascal Siakam Over 20.5 Pts-133
Jayson TatumUnder 26.5 Pts-133
Serge Ibaka Over 13.5 Pts-133
Pascal Siakam Over 7.5 Rebs-111
Serge IbakaOver 1.5 Made Threes+112
Norman PowellUnder 9.5 Pts-145
Kemba Walker Under 22.5 Pts-138
Marcus SmartUnder 12.5 Pts-123
Jaylen BrownUnder 7.5 Rebs-155
Kemba WalkerUnder 3.5 Made Threes-186
Jaylen BrownUnder 2.5 Made Threes-120

Responsible gaming

Just this week, a DraftKings customer placed a massive $3 million parlay featuring the Packers and two SEC teams — Alabama and Georgia. With odds of +186, the 3-team parlay could potentially pay out $5.5 million. A DraftKings spokesperson did not respond to an inquiry from CoBets on the location of where the parlay was placed.

  • Packers to win the NFC North -360
  • Georgia to win the SEC East -110
  • Alabama to win the SEC West -670

The probability of all three events occurring simultaneously is around 19.93%, according to a sports betting expert who goes by the nickname Captain Jack Andrews on several social media platforms including Twitter. When crunching the numbers on the bet, the “fair odds” of the parlay are around +402, not +186, Captain Jack said on his Twitter account.

Quite often, the allure of a large payout trumps sound decision-making when a bettor opts to roll the dice on a risky parlay. Rood, the Bet.Works executive, expects parlay activity to remain strong during football season.

“With the other leagues coming to an end, the number of wagering selections will be a bit reduced,” Rood said. “I am hopeful that the addition of the NCAA schedule will add that in and pick up when the Big 10 and Pac-12 come online” later this fall.

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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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