- The state of Colorado is still on track for a May 1 sports betting launch.
- There had been some speculation that the launch date would be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- All gaming properties in the state are currently closed through at least April 17.
Colorado is still targeting a May 1 statewide rollout of legalized sports betting despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there had been some speculation that this date would be pushed back until the virus abates somewhat that appears to not be the case. The Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (LGCC) has at least informally reaffirmed their commitment to the May 1 date.
The reality, however, is that the May 1 date could come and go without any actual bets being made. The state’s gaming properties are currently under a closure order from Governor Jared Polis that began on March 17 and will continue through at least April 17. Obviously, at that point the situation will be reassessed and the closure mandate could be extended. The Division of Gaming offices have also been closed since March 17 though work as continued with sports betting license approvals coming fast and furious.
If you’d like to read up on the sports betting regulations that will go into effect in Colorado on 5/1/20 you can do so at the link below:
COLORADO DIVISION OF GAMING–SPORTS BETTING REGULATIONS
Generally speaking, there’s no reason *not* to go ahead with the May 1 launch. On March 25, the Division of Gaming indicated that from an administrative standpoint they’re ready to go. Here’s a quote from Suzi Karrer, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Enforcement Division:
“The Division of Gaming believes, from an administrative standpoint, that the May 1 deadline will be met given the current status and progress of adopting rules, approving licenses and implementing procedures for sports betting in Colorado.”
AROUND THREE DOZEN COMPANIES ALREADY APPROVED FOR SPORTS BETTING LICENSES
As of now, the state has issued nearly three dozen sports betting licenses. Every land based casino in the state has applied for a so called ‘master license’ that allows them to accept wagers on their property. The more interesting component of Colorado sports betting is online where the state looks to have created the most player friendly regulatory framework in the country. Some of the most recent licensing approvals were granted to Roar Digital, (the joint venture between MGM Resorts and UK based sports betting monolith GVC Holdings), William Hill, Rush Street Interactive and Penn Sports Interactive (the sports betting arm of Penn National Gaming).
The two most interesting companies to be approved for a sports betting license at the Thursday, April 2 meeting are a good representation of the potential dynamism of the Colorado market. UK based Smarkets received licensing approval–they earned their stripes as a betting market company in Europe but have recently moved into fixed odds betting. Smarkets has one of the most interesting and diverse betting boards and that’s becoming more and more of a strength during the COVID-19 sports shutdown.
Also, Nevada based Circa Sports received licensing representing the company’s first foray outside of the Silver State. Circa is the newest line originator in Nevada currently operating the books at the Golden State and D Las Vegas downtown. The company was started by Las Vegas casino impresario Derek Stevens and will offer betting in Colorado as an online partner of Century Casinos (Century also received approval for three master licenses at the 4/2 meeting). Circa is positioning itself as a ‘low hold, high limit’ sportsbook attractive to ‘sharp’ players.
UPSIDE/DOWNSIDE OF A MAY 1 LAUNCH
The only obvious downside of a May 1 launch is more promotional than anything else. Ideally, Colorado would have launched sports betting with a bang that would receive plenty of media coverage. I was even planning to be in Denver in early May to cover the proceedings firsthand–not that the city or Colorado in general is a particularly tough sell for me. Now there’s a good chance that none of the retail properties will be ready to take bets on May 1. There’s no chance that the May 1 launch will be a huge media event for social distancing reasons if nothing else.
Since that scenario isn’t going to happen due to the Coronavirus pandemic there might be a number of ancillary benefits to the May 1 launch anyway. For one thing, it greatly incentivizes licensees to get their online operations up and running ASAP. This would provide much needed revenue for the casino companies and set a strong foundation for the online market in Colorado. Furthermore, with the major sports around the world on hiatus it could encourage sportsbooks to offer more creative wagering options. Finally, an incremental retail launch would serve the same purpose as a casino doing a ‘soft opening’ and making sure all of the kinks are worked out before an official grand opening.
Overall, I’m still extremely excited about the future of sports betting in Colorado. In my view, the Rocky Mountain State will be a top five market–if not a top three market–sooner rather than later.