Colorado’s Monarch Casino Running Sports Betting Operations In-House

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Over the first two weeks of legalized sports betting in Colorado, a limited number of sportsbooks have begun to draw from a similar playbook.

Though a lengthy shutdown of non-essential businesses across the state has delayed the opening of retail sportsbooks, several companies still managed to roll out mobile sports betting platforms upon Colorado’s official launch May 1. The group is highlighted by industry leaders such as FanDuel and DraftKings, which has seen its stock price soar more than 25% since its April IPO. Many of the industry’s household names have gained entry into the Colorado market through skin agreements with retail casinos under intricate revenue sharing deals.

Monarch Casino Resort Spa has opted to take an unconventional route. Unlike the majority of its competitors that have already struck deals with prominent sportsbook operators, Monarch will run the show on its own. By electing not to outsource most of the day-to-day tasks of running a legal sportsbook, Monarch may gain an edge on its rivals, company executives contend.

The benefits of maintaining in-house operations

Monarch, which launched a mobile sportsbook May 11, has developed its own risk-management team inside the property in Black Hawk. There are numerous advantages to running operations in-house, according to Monarch Casino Chief Operating Officer David Farahi, versus partnering with a larger company. With the risk-management team on site, Monarch has the flexibility to make adjustments on the fly whereas others may have to deal with a considerable lag, at times.

“A lot of other guys have them overseas, but ours is an in-house team,” Farahi told COBets. “What that does is it allows us to provide better lines. It’s also a smoother process, we can get our lines set up quicker, we can score the games quicker and people get access to their winnings faster.”

By maintaining its own in-house operations, Monarch also has the option of reducing the vigorish, or the commission, a book receives for placing a customer’s bet. While Monarch could lower the vig for a number of popular sports, the book is already planning on decreasing its cut for win bets on baseball. Monarch will offer 8-cent lines for baseball, among the cheapest in the industry, down from the standard 10- to 12-cent lines seen at most shops. Instead of offering a customer a line of Rockies -1.5 runs (-110) over the lowly Pirates, Monarch’s line will be set at -108.

Monarch has also designed a rewards program that awards customers with comp points for wagers placed at the sportsbook. Farahi drew comparisons to a similar program at the sportsbook at its sister property, the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, to illustrate how sports bettors respond to various incentives.

“We have guests at our Reno property, where we also have a sportsbook. Just from the comps they earn at the sportsbook, they earn enough comp points to stay at the hotel sometimes for a week at a time,” Farahi said. “They earn enough comp points to eat in all the restaurants and they get to go to our world-class spa for free.”

The mobile app

Much like many other sportsbooks around Colorado, Monarch intends to generate a considerable amount of business through its mobile platform. Though Black Hawk is roughly 45 minutes from Denver in normal traffic periods, the casino is still a lengthy drive for some customers on the outer edges of the state line. The mobile app, BetMonarch, is powered by Las Vegas-based Stadium Technology Group, the same company that provides Monarch’s back-end system for sports betting. Stadium Technology’s wide array of sportsbook clients includes Vegas heavy hitters such as Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Sports, Circa Sports, South Point Casino, and the Westgate SuperBook.

While the bet types, sports and betting lines on the app are similar to the Nevada incarnation, the actual interface for the Colorado version is different. Farahi prefers the interface for the Colorado app to the brand that is operational in Nevada. BetMonarch offers remote registration for patron sports betting accounts in Colorado, rather than the required in-person registration in Nevada.

“You could download the app from the App Store, create an account, and fund the account all from your living room,” Farahi said.

House rules allow customers to place $1 minimum wagers on the app, down from $5 minimum at the window.

Launch of retail book

Despite the statewide casino closures, Monarch continues to make progress on the design of a retail sportsbook inside the casino. Upon completion, the sportsbook will have about a half-dozen windows with kiosks interspersed throughout the property. When the casino reopens, customers will be able to place sports wagers at a Monarch Rewards desk on the second floor of the property until the construction of the sportsbook is completed.

The sportsbook is expected to be finished by some point in 2020.

“It’s not going to be huge, it’s not going to be like a Nevada-style sportsbook,” Farahi said. “We don’t have that much space in Black Hawk. But we’re trying to make it as comfortable, as fun and as high-energy as possible.”

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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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