The only person cheering harder for their team to win than a die-hard fan is the one who gambled on it. With the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the delay or cancellation of a significant amount of professional sports, sports betting in Colorado has been remote and irregular but not unsuccessful.
In November of 2019, proposition DD was passed, allowing the legalization of sports betting in Colorado. This comes after the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law banning the form of gambling. Colorado only saw this legislation materialize in May this year, largely in the form of sports betting apps.
“The Colorado sports betting market has taken its adversity in stride as it looks toward the return of major sports organizations.”
The remote nature of sports betting in Colorado has allowed it to flourish, even with a lack of sports being played.
According to Colorado Sharp, a news site geared toward information about in-state online gambling, Colorado earned $25.5 million in unaudited revenue in May, the state’s first month of legalized sports betting.
In comparison, Michigan only posted a total revenue of $105,548 in retail sports wagering during March, the state’s first month of legalized sports betting, according to iGB.
This low revenue total is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shut-down of casinos, as bettors in Michigan are only allowed to place bets in person with plans to transition to online betting in the fall. Casinos were forced to close merely five days after sports betting was legalized due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The strength in Colorado’s market is the abundance of gambling apps. Not every state permits customers to gamble outside of casinos. These apps allow users to register accounts, place bets, deposit and withdraw funds all from the comfort of their smartphones as long as users are 21 or older.
Professional sports in the United States are slowly returning to the public eye as COVID-19 testing and meticulous return-to-play guidelines are navigated. The NBA is seeing players enter the Orlando Bubble, and the MLB just announced a slate of two opening day games on July 23.
With the return of mainstream sports on the horizon, how has the industry managed to cope during this unconventional hiatus?
“Well, for one, keeping people aware of sports that are still going on is huge,” said Nick Epstein, the Sportsbook manager for the Monarch Casino Resort Spa based out of Black Hawk, Colorado. “UFC and soccer are our one and two sports at the moment.”
Sports that are being played are being bet on, regardless of if they are not what Americans have traditionally considered to be the most important sports. However, preparation for the return of more popular sports still remains the main priority.
“We’re focused on, obviously, what’s available right now and in the next couple months; our major go-to sports,” said Epstein.
Epstein indicated that Monarch has no plans to venture into wider sports markets but instead will look to capitalize on the hunger of their in-state consumer base as sports return over the coming months.
“People are really excited to have some entertainment, to go out to bars, to watch the games, to talk about the games and bet on the games,” Epstein said.
Although the Monarch Sportsbook may not have the most diverse selection of sports to choose from, their loyalty program is what Epstein believes will distance them from their competitors as more sports return.
People are really excited to have some entertainment, to go out to bars, to watch the games, to talk about the games and bet on the games,” -Nick Epstein, Sportsbook manager, Monarch Casino Resort Spa
“Our app is superior because of our competitive lines and our ability to give our guests personalized attention and the ability to earn comps and tier credit here at the property,” said Epstein.
A betting line is how oddsmakers encourage bettors to bet evenly across multiple outcomes instead of heavily favoring one outcome or team. Having competitive lines also gives bettors more of an incentive to bet more frequently.
Monarch chose to develop their own Sportsbook, meaning they will set their betting lines independently rather than pairing with a Sportsbook company. According to Colorado Sharp, this was to emphasize the importance of “keeping things local.”
DraftKings, one of the nation’s most popular sports gambling apps and a competitor of Monarch, aligned itself with the Mardi Gras Casino in Black Hawk, Colorado. With a much larger audience, DraftKings took a more experimental approach to navigating a world without mainstream sports.
One of DraftKings’ more obscure choices was to offer betting lines on what the temperature would be in various cities throughout Colorado. Bettors could enter a pool on the app and choose if they thought certain cities would or would not reach a set temperature. Those with the most correct answers would receive a payout.
There were similar pools for those that wanted to try their hand at picking the winners of reality TV shows, like Survivor. According to Forbes, DraftKings was able to get five-figure entry numbers for some of these pools.
Although odd, this is completely legal as the pools require no entry fee. All pools with entry fees or specific sports that are bet on must first be cleared by the Colorado Division of Gaming. While reality TV definitely doesn’t fall under the realm of sports, it’s kept customers engaged during a time of uncertainty in the sporting world.
As the international sports markets return, DraftKings has stayed on top of it. Users are able to bet on Russian table tennis, New Zealand rugby union and many other sports and leagues that are traditionally not given much attention in the United States.
Sports betting, like every industry, has been forced to adapt throughout the pandemic. Whether their model is customer-centric like Monarch or geared toward the unusual like DraftKings, all have refused to remain stagnant. The Colorado sports betting market has taken its adversity in stride as it looks toward the return of major sports organizations.
Scott Nies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @scott_nies98.