Regional Bias: Bettors Support Denver Teams In DraftKings’ First Week Of Colorado Legal Sports Wagering

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As new jurisdictions have entered the U.S. legal sports betting market, a common trend has emerged for states with major metropolitan areas that contain multiple professional sports franchises.

Although bettors have shown a proclivity for bargain hunting by searching for the most favorable lines on a given sport, many fans have marked the debut of legal sports betting by placing a futures bet on the top local teams regardless of the odds. In Rhode Island, bettors backed the New England Patriots by an overwhelming margin in Super Bowl LII, resulting in a $2.4 million loss for the state’s two sportsbooks. Over the first several days of legalized sports betting in the Centennial State, Colorado is no exception.

At DraftKings Sportsbook, more futures wagers were placed on the Denver Nuggets in Colorado over the first four days of legal sports betting across the state than on any other NBA team, DraftKings Director of Sportsbook Operations Johnny Avello told COBets. DraftKings has seen a similar pattern in other futures markets, as Avalanche futures represented the most popular wager for NHL bettors, while bets on the Rockies to win the World Series ranked first by handle on the MLB futures market.

Small sample size

Since the data is only based on the first four days of wagering on DraftKings’ mobile app in Colorado, Avello cautioned that it is premature to read too much into the trends (the company has yet to release data for May 5-7).

Bettors also supported several marquee teams that are popular throughout the country, even in time zones far from the Rocky Mountains. While DraftKings wrote more tickets on the Nuggets to win the 2020 NBA Championship, the Los Angeles Lakers ranked first in Colorado in overall handle. For MLB futures, Colorado bettors placed the most individual bets on the New York Yankees to capture the 2020 World Series, not the Rockies.

In football, Avello has seen wagers on Broncos quarterback Drew Lock to win the NFL’s 2020 Most Valuable Player award at 70/1. The sportsbook has also taken action on wideout Jerry Jeudy to become the first Broncos player to be named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year since Clinton Portis in 2002. Jeudy is currently the co-sixth choice at 16/1.

“What it says about Coloradans is they do like their football for sure, their hockey for sure and their baseball. And although they like the Rockies, they also like the Yankees. It showed me that Yankees fans are everywhere,” Avello said.

Betting volume still high on niche sports

Despite the lengthy global sports freeze, Avello has been impressed with betting volume on a number of niche sports. The sportsbook also began taking wagers on UFC 249 well in advance of Saturday’s event. As more wagers pile in on Tony Ferguson in the interim lightweight title fight versus Justin Gaethje, Ferguson has moved to a -177 favorite at DraftKings (as of May 7).

Niche sports performing well in Colorado (May 1-4):

  • Belarus soccer
  • Korean and Taiwanese baseball
  • Table Tennis
  • Darts
  • Esports

DraftKings launched its Colorado mobile app on May 1, the first day sports betting licensees could accept a legal sports bet within Colorado state lines. Three other Colorado sportsbooks — FanDuel, BetRivers, and BetMGM — also began accepting wagers on the historic day.

Colorado sports bettors have been pushed to mobile apps for the time being, as every retail casino in the state remains closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our sportsbook platform in Colorado is the same top-rated app experience that our customers across the country have come to expect,” a DraftKings spokesman told COBets.

The company has also begun marketing a TV and radio commercial specific to Colorado, the spokesman confirmed. The 25-second radio spot promotes a number of DraftKings’ free pools, some of which offer thousands of dollars in prizes.

DraftKings will not downwardly adjust the odds for Denver-area teams in Colorado due to an abundance of wagering on local favorites like the Broncos and Nuggets. For instance, the odds on the Nuggets to win the NBA Championship in Colorado are virtually identical with every DraftKings book around the country. If DraftKings lowered the odds to around 15/1, the sportsbook leaves itself susceptible to an arbitrage opportunity where savvy customers could lock into a risk-less wager by hedging their bets.

“We have a theory that if the Broncos are 40/1 in New York, the Broncos are 40/1 in Denver or through the whole state of Colorado,” Avello said. “We want to give the customers a fair shake, we don’t want to take away a price they can get somewhere else.”

Free-to-play contests

Ahead of last week’s launch, DraftKings began offering a series of free-to-play contests to customers in Colorado. The contests gave DraftKings customers a chance to become accustomed to the site before the mobile sports betting platform went live, Avello said. Thus far, DraftKings has generated more interest in the contests than the company anticipated.

One contest of note asks users to make a number of weather forecasts on the daily temperature for the largest cities in the state. On Tuesday, the daily high of 72 degrees in Denver easily cleared the over of 60.5. DraftKings also offers free contests on reality TV shows such as “Survivor” and “Top Chef.”

On Thursday evening, the NFL will release its 2020-21 regular season schedule during a three-hour live broadcast. If the NFL opens the season on time in September, Avello believes the return of football without any delay could provide a boon to Colorado sports betting.

“Colorado gets introduced to pro football, you can bet on the Broncos legally for the first time, there will be a big boom in football, alone in Denver, to be able to bet on the Broncos,” Avello said.

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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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