Colorado Regulators Anticipate Record Sports Betting Activity In January Driven By NFL Playoffs

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A new year brings a bevy of new challenges for Colorado sports betting operators, as the football season draws to a close in the coming weeks.

Football has been the cash cow for books in recent months, with nearly half of all tickets containing wagers on the sport in November. Interest in college football and NFL wagering over the fall pushed the nascent Colorado market to new heights, with record handle expected for December after a robust start to the football season two months earlier.

But with less than three weeks until the Super Bowl and the Denver Broncos’ season already complete, Colorado Division of Gaming Director Dan Hartman remains unconcerned about the possibility of a  considerable downturn.

“We’re on a really good path with pro hockey and basketball back on,” Hartman said Thursday at the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission’s (LGCC) monthly meeting. “The numbers for January are looking far to exceed what you’ll see in December.”

The division has yet to report the state’s sports betting figures for December.

Robust football handle

Sports betting activity has been on an upward trajectory since September when Colorado bettors wagered $207.7 million on sports, a 61% increase from the previous month. The handle remained over $200 million during the next two months, with sportsbooks taking $231.2 million in wagers in November. The figure represented an eight-fold increase from May when the state went live with sports betting.

During the month of November, Colorado bettors wagered $110.8 million on football, or 47.9% of the state’s overall sports betting handle. Of the amount, bettors wagered $88.5 million on the NFL even as the Broncos fell out of playoff contention late in the month. Wagering on football dominated the market, with no other sport attaining 10% of the state’s handle.

The sportsbooks could benefit from an atypical sports calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NHL opened its regular season this month, while the NBA tipped off just before Christmas. On the eve of the season, the Colorado Avalanche emerged as the Stanley Cup favorite at several sportsbooks, while the Denver Nuggets are expected to make another deep run in the NBA Playoffs. Last season, the Nuggets shocked the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference semifinals before they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the following round.

Overall, Coloradans have wagered more than $200 million on football since the start of the season.

As of Nov. 30, the state had collected $2.09 million in sports betting tax revenue, which is about 123% of the budgeted amount, Colorado Deputy Gaming Controller Eric Shannon wrote in a memo. The state allowed sportsbook operators to first accept bets on May 1, when FanDuelDraftKings, BetMGM, and BetRivers all made their Colorado debuts.

Other licensing actions

The LGCC also approved more than a dozen sports betting-related licenses on Thursday, including the Temporary Vendor Major licenses of IMG Arena US and Pala Interactive LLC. IMG Arena works with more than 250 sportsbook operators worldwide, providing a wide suite of live-streaming and virtual sports products. Since 2012, IMG Arena has forged partnerships with more than 40 prominent global sports leagues including Italy’s Serie A, the ATP, MLS, NHL, and the EuroLeague in basketball.

Among the licensees approved in the Vendor Minor category were: The Athletic Media Company, Univision Interactive Media Inc., and Buffer Enterprises Inc. Univision Interactive Media, a division of Univision Communications, operates Univision.com and a broad array of the company’s digital offerings. Univision is the largest Spanish-language television network in the U.S.

Other licensees approved Thursday in the Vendor Minor category:

  • YouBet Technology Inc.
  • Zendesk Inc.
  • Bullpen Sports Network Inc.
  • Everi Payments Inc.
  • Dish Integration LLC
  • Denver Pickem
  • Singular Labs Inc.

The LGCC’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 18.

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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