- In October 2020, Colorado voters approved Amendment 77 which significantly streamlined regulation of casino games.
- Amendment 77 removed the $100 bet cap and allowed local approval of new casino games.
- Colorado’s Division of Gaming will meet on Monday, February 8 to plan for the implementation of Amendment 77.
Every week it seems like we’re publishing a positive development in Colorado’s gaming industry with sports betting a particular focus. This is what happens when a state does gaming regulation right. Colorado is on the verge of moving into gaming’s big leagues and on February 8, 2020 state regulators will meet to implement new casino rules from Amendment 77. Amendment 77 was approved by voters statewide in October and this could be an important piece of the puzzle for Colorado’s gaming industry.
We’ll get back to Amendment 77 in a moment but some background is necessary here. Casino betting has been legal in Colorado for 30 years though limited to three historic mountain towns–Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City. Initially, the state’s gaming industry was of little importance due in large part to a $5 stakes limit on individual bets. That paltry limit basically kept Colorado in the casino industry ‘bush leagues’ meaning it was bypassed by players, companies, investors, etc.
In 2009, the limit on individual bets was increased to $100 and it was at that point that the gaming industry began to find some traction. Over the years, a number of regional casino companies (Full House Resorts, Jacobs Entertainment) began to invest. As the gaming industry consolidated at the macro level acquisitions and mergers started to bring corporate powerhouses like Penn National Gaming and Caesars Entertainment to town. Despite the new investment casino properties remained spartan and Colorado wasn’t really thought of as a ‘serious’ gaming destination.
SPORTS BETTING CHANGES EVERYTHING
After the US Supreme Court invalidated the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) it was just a matter of time before the US sports betting market would explode. A wide range of states started the process of regulating retail and mobile sports betting. The fact that Colorado quickly joined them wasn’t a surprise at all. What *was* a surprise was the great job they did on setting up the regulatory framework. After pouring through their regulations for a couple of days I began to realize the massive potential for sports betting in Colorado. My only concern was implementation–everything could potentially get screwed up between ‘Point A and Point B’.
To my surprise, Colorado absolutely nailed it and launched as scheduled on May 1, 2020 despite the difficulty imposed upon them by the COVID-19 pandemic. As I had anticipated, the state’s ecosystem quickly spawned a vibrant and competitive marketplace. At launch, there were four mobile sports apps in Colorado. Since the ‘brick & mortar’ gaming industry was shut down due to the pandemic there were no retail sportsbooks. In addition, much of the sports ecosystem worldwide was shutdown which out of necessity pushed Russian table tennis to the top of the betting charts. When Colorado finished their first month of sports betting with a handle of $25.5 million despite these challenges people started to pay attention.
Fast forward to the present. Colorado’s sports betting industry has been in existence for just over 9 months and there are 18 different mobile platforms available in the state (17 under the auspices of the state’s Division of Gaming plus the Sky Ute tribal casino). There are also 11 retail sportsbooks open for business. The variety of companies operating in Colorado is unmatched anywhere else in the US. They’ve got all of the big players in the new wave of US betting (Barstool Sports/Penn National, BetMGM, BetRivers, FanDuel, DraftKings). They’ve got a couple of sportsbooks favored by Las Vegas wiseguys in their first move outside of the Silver State (Superbook, Circa Sports). They’ve got local companies (BetWildwood, Monarch Casino) and even a sportsbook with roots in Iowa (Elite Gaming). They’ve also got a good representation of sportsbook companies from the UK (BetFred, Smarkets), Canada (theScore), Australia (PointsBet, Play On forthcoming) and will soon add Sweden (Betsson) and Malta based Tipico.
CAN AMENDMENT 77 CHANGE THE ‘PUBLIC PERCEPTION’ OF COLORADO CASINOS?
At this point, Colorado very well might have the best ‘pound for pound’ sports betting state in the country. Thankfully, the aforementioned per bet limit didn’t apply to sports betting which is one of many reasons it has done so well. Now the state is hoping to make Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek legit casino gaming destinations thanks to Amendment 77. Amendment 77 does two very important things:
–It allows bet limits for casino games to be set by their operators.
–It allows each of three casino tows to approve new casino games. Previously, casinos could offer slots, video poker, blackjack, poker, craps and roulette.
On February 8, the state will begin to implement the provisions of Amendment 77. Changing the limits in existing games is as simple as a bit of ‘cut and paste’ on the relevant sections outlining maximum wagers. There are also new games that will receive a regulatory framework and should start appearing at casinos after that. These include Stadium Blackjack, Multi-Hand Blackjack, Stadium Three Card Poker, Stadium Casino War, Keno, Pai-Gow, Big 6 Wheel and Baccarat. You can download and/or read a PDF file with the proposed regulatory changes at this link:
Two immediate benefits are obvious. The addition of Baccarat and Pai-Gow allows casinos to offer games preferred by the lucrative Asian gaming market. The removal of bet limits on poker has the potential of bringing a higher level of play to Colorado card rooms along with the ability to host high profile professional events.
If you’d like to watch the video of the Amendment 77 Rulemaking Workshop you can do so at this link. It will be airing live from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM Mountain Time. Not sure about an archive but I’ll look into it:
I’ll be heading out to Colorado within the next few weeks and should have plenty of updates on casino gaming as well as sports betting. Stay tuned!