Dan Hartman is not a household name in Colorado. Nope, while the name Von Miller immediately makes you think of Super Bowl 50 or the name Nolan Arenado makes you duck at the thought of a baseball whizzing by on its way to first base, the name Dan Hartman makes you, well, scratch your head.
But according to a colleague, if you’re into sports betting, Dan Hartman is a name you should revere.
“He’s a real gem of an unknown person in public service, a person that most people will never had heard of, but boy are they glad he’s there,” said Ed Martin, president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International and a longtime associate of Hartman’s.
Sports betting czar
So, who is Dan Hartman? His official title is Director, Colorado Division of Gaming for the state of Colorado. But feel free to think of him as the state’s sports betting czar. After all, it was Dan Hartman who turned a November 2019 voter referendum legalizing sports gambling into the very tangible opportunity to bet, just six-and-a-half months later. And if you think that’s an aggressive timeline, consider that the final eight weeks of preparation were done with his staff spread across the state, working from their homes amid the COVID-19 crisis.
But Dan Hartman won’t take any credit for that.
“I’ve got a great team here that even going home, they did the work and did the things they needed to do,” he said. “They didn’t find ways not to do the work.”
And because of that, four sports betting operators — including national giants DraftKings and FanDuel — went live in Colorado on May 1, making it the 17th U.S. jurisdiction to do so since the fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, and the first to do so with most of the country under lockdown. Since then, three other mobile apps have launched in Colorado, bringing the total to seven, with many more on deck.
— Channel 2 KWGN (@channel2kwgn) May 6, 2020
Hartman, who has been a civil servant in Colorado since 1993, has spent most of his professional career regulating horse and dog racing with turns in the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, and early positions at an Iowa racetrack and in racing in South Dakota. But Colorado is his home, and being a regulator is a passion — believe it or not — so here he is.
Regulating, racing in Hartman’s blood
It’s no mistake or odd twist of fate that Hartman became a racing, and then sports betting, regulator. His dad managed racetracks, so he’s been around regulators for a long time, and the experience, he says, “gave me a really unique perspective.”
About a year ago, when it became clear that Colorado was going to at least consider legal sports betting, Hartman, who was already working in the Department of Revenue as the director of the Division of Racing, began pushing to have sports betting assigned to him. A new division was created, and given Hartman’s background, it was a natural fit. The department was able to ramp up faster than have others across the country.
“He’s a problem solver, and he doesn’t carry an agenda,” Martin said. “He just wants to try to do the right thing, and when you put a racing guy in there, you bypassed a big learning curve there. Dan showed up on Day 1 with a background as a regulator, and he was already halfway around the track.”
His personality has translated into an open, transparent department that appears to truly consider operators and other stakeholders as partners. In fact, barely a month after voters legalized sports betting, Hartman invited a host of stakeholders to Colorado for a multi-day summit to discuss what sports betting should look like.
“Director Hartman was a pleasure to work with and truly brought all the stakeholders to the table for a conversation,” said an industry source who attended the meetings. “The transparency and thoughtfulness he brought to the process was a breath of fresh air and should serve as the gold-star standard in the industry.”
The end result is that operators feel like they have not only a stake in Colorado sports betting, but a say.
Let’s go bake a cake
Hartman’s passion for this job extends into the rest of his life. Though he says he’s really only a recreational gambler — and because of his job, he can’t gamble at all in Colorado — what he most enjoys is the old-fashioned process of handicapping. He recalled the days when he would study a race program and make his own odds, much like baseball nostalgists remember scoring a pro game for fun in the stands.
Like everyone else in the gaming industry, Hartman has spent his fair share of time in Las Vegas, and he enjoys the restaurants as much as the casinos. In fact, when he’s not around racing, Hartman fills his time with skiing, home renovation projects and food. Since the COVID-19 crisis began keeping Americans at home, Hartman has joined a Sunday Zoom cooking class from Italy.
But it is baking that really captures his imagination. And he’s good enough at it that he baked and decorated wedding cakes for both his daughter and niece.
“It’s a good distraction,” he said. “Especially cake decorating. It helps me to get away, and it was fun, using a combination of fondant and regular stuff, and I put sugar roses on … it just gives me something to do.”
Hartman said he’s taken some cooking and baking classes close to home, but he’s not professionally trained.
While cake baking and regulating sports betting or racing might appear to have little in common, it’s the attention to detail, the enthusiasm for the little things, and the opportunity to collaborate and continue to learn that keeps him engaged.
Hartman all about common sense
But when you meet Hartman, in a sport coat and with his work face on, it’s hard to imagine that he spends some of his free time with a mixer and a pastry bag.
“He’s a very serious guy,” Martin said. “He has a wonderful ability to take very complex issues and get to the crux of the matter quickly and identify what options are. If there is a path that just makes common sense, he can pluck that out of the field.”
For Colorado sports bettors, that no-nonsense attitude has given them what ultimately should be one of the most open, competitive marketplaces in the nation. All 33 commercial casinos have been approved for sports betting, and it’s likely there will be 30-plus mobile apps, as well, when the market reaches full maturity.
“When the referendum came through the legislature, it made sense to move me over here,” Hartman said. “I was kind of invested in sports betting.
“I’ve worked under the kind of non-open, non-transparent operators, and I think that coming back and taking on the regulator role, it’s allowed me to be a little more progressive.”