Year In Review: A Timeline Of Colorado Sports Betting’s Straight Uphill Run

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It’s been nearly eight months since four sports wagering operators ushered in the era of legal wagering in Colorado, and whew!, what a ride it has been.

When BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings and FanDuel took the first mobile/online bets in Colorado on May 1, the U.S. sports landscape was dark. Table tennis and Belarusian soccer were the top sports that patrons were wagering on — and likely learning about at the same time.

Against that backdrop, Coloradans laid down about $25 million in bets in May. Since then, the number of available apps and platforms on which to wager has more than quadrupled, the monthly handle is approaching 10 times what it was in May, and every U.S. sport got back into action, even if they weren’t really playing in the right season.

With 2021 upon us, it seemed like a good time to reflect on and review the straight uphill trajectory of legal sports betting in Colorado. Voters narrowly legalized sports betting on Nov. 5, 2019, setting off a whirlwind to meet the statutory deadline of a May 1, 2020, launch.

From rules approval to $231.2 million in handle

Here’s a look at the timeline:

Feb. 20: The Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission approves sports betting rules as well as licenses seven casinos for sports betting — Monarch Casino Resort Spa, Saratoga Casino Black Hawk, Dostal Alley, Double Eagle Hotel & Casino, Brass Ass Casino, J.P. McGill’s Hotel & Casino, and Midnight Rose Hotel & Casino.

March 12: The NBA postpones its regular season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tests positive for COVID-19. The postponement was the first domino to fall in a complete reshuffling of professional sports around the world.

March 19: The LGCC approves more than a dozen sports betting licenses, including those for operators FanDuel, FoxBet, and PointsBet in what would prove to be its final in-person meeting of the year.

April 2: In a special virtual meeting, the LGCC issues another 18 sports betting-related licenses, including one to Roar Digital, the joint venture between MGM and British-based GVC holdings. By this date, the LGCC confirms that all 33 of the state’s licensed retail casinos have applied for sports betting licenses.

April 16: The state’s sports betting menu is discussed by the LGCC and the commission sets licensing fees. In addition, the commission approves another dozen licenses, including one for the SuperBook, which will expand out of Nevada for the first time when it goes live in Colorado.

April 30: In the final special meeting before operators can launch, the LGCC approves its extensive wagering menu and issues 31 sports-betting related licenses. As of this meeting all 33 retail casinos are licensed to offer sports betting.

May 1: Colorado becomes the first U.S. jurisdiction in which sports betting operators go live online/mobile in 2020. BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings, and FanDuel all launched their platforms.

June 7: The Sky Ute Tribe becomes the first tribe in the nation to offer statewide mobile sports betting when it launches its Sky Ute Sportsbook in partnership with USBookmaking.

June 15: FanDuel announces a partnership with the Denver Broncos, marking the first deal between a sports betting company and an NFL team since the league softened its stance on sports betting after the 2018 fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

June 15: The Saratoga Casino Blackhawk and Betfred open the state’s first retail sportsbook. The opening came on the same day casinos around the state were allowed to reopen after a three-month closure due to COVID-19 restrictions. The first retail wager placed in the state was $100 on the Broncos to win the Super Bowl. (Editor’s note: That’s not looking like such a good bet right now, as the Broncos are in last place in the AFC West entering the weekend).

July 13: The Department of Revenue releases Colorado’s first sports betting revenue report. The report, which covers May 1-31, reveals $25.6 million in wagers were placed in the state during a month in which no U.S. professional sports were in action. Department of Revenue Chief Dan Hartmann says sports betting has a “bright future.”

Aug. 7: PointsBet announces partnerships with the Nuggets (NBA) and Avalanche (NHL).

Sept. 8: PointsBet announces the nation’s first sports betting partnership with an NCAA team, when it reveals a new deal with the Colorado Buffaloes.

Sept. 17: LGCC approves sports betting licenses for Buffalo Wild Wings and NBCUniversal. Buffalo Wild Wings plans to offer “sports betting experiences” at its locations throughout the state.

Sept. 24: DraftKings announces a partnership with the Colorado Rockies, meaning that all four pro teams in Denver have at least one sports betting partner.

Oct. 15: LGCC approves real-money sports betting pick ’em contests, opening the door for SuperBook to offer its NFL SuperContest outside of Nevada for the first time.

Nov. 3: Coloradans vote to give some key gaming decisions, including raising bet limits, to the state’s three gaming towns of Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek. Amendment 77 passes by about a 60% margin.

Nov. 5: Barstool Sports opens its first brick-and-mortar sportsbook at the Ameristar Casino Resort Spa in Black Hawk.

Dec. 1: The Black Hawk City Council becomes the first in the state to increase bet limits. Central City soon follows. The new no-limit limit will go into effect on May 1, 2021.

Dec. 22: The Department of Revenue releases its final revenue report of 2020, revealing the sportsbooks in November took in $231.2 million in wagers.

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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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