Administratively, Colorado is ready. By all accounts, May 1 remains a realistic target date for the launch of legalized sports betting in the Centennial State.
Despite the coronavirus pandemic causing mass shutdowns nationwide, and major sports remaining sidelined, regulators in Colorado, such as Division of Gaming Director Dan Hartman, agree: “May 1 certainly is, as I see it, our launch date.”
“We are well on track, administratively, with licensing, with all the pieces we need to have in place for that,” Hartman said, noting that some details of the incoming industry will be finalized during the April 16 meeting of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (CLGCC).
“Administratively, we’re right on track for May 1. The operators I’ve been talking to are looking for that start.”
Coronavirus not stalling CO sports betting plans
Earlier this month, Gov. Jared Polis announced a statewide stay-at-home order through at least April 26, four days shy of the federal recommendation. The reason being Polis’ concern for the CO economy.
Still, regulators and stakeholders maintain optimism that casinos could reopen to the public by May 1, that same day Colorado sports betting is expected to go live. The focus right now, Hartman said, “is getting casinos open first and then having brick-and-mortar (sportsbooks) open as they’re ready.”
Retail operations might resemble more of a rolling launch, as casinos will likely prioritize opening gaming floors before sportsbooks. That said, Hartman noted, “we’ve always contemplated launching both online and brick-and-mortar at the same time. So, May 1 for online is certainly doable for us.”
Testing well underway
Testing has already begun, Hartman confirmed. That process is actually sped up for some operators, particularly those who are up and running in other states. After all, before launching elsewhere, those operators had to complete independent testing. Hartman said Colorado benefits from that.
He detailed how regulators receive a certification letter from labs that have conducted testing. Per Hartman, Colorado can then “bring (the tech) in here and put it into place and follow up within the next 90 days after they’ve opened to do all the intrusion testing and all the other things that we need to do.”
Obviously, state regulators will “take a lot more time” with operators that have not undergone independent testing in the US.
“As we’ve said all along,” Hartman said, “if they meet all the qualifications, if they do all the things we ask them to do, we’ll put everybody who’s ready May 1 on the starting gate and open at the same time.”
What Colorado sports betting will look like
When things begin to normalize, certainly bettors in the Centennial State will see familiar betting markets.
Of course, bookmakers will offer major sports such as MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL, among others. The public will also have access to lines involving NCAA action, including events featuring in-state colleges. Books, though, are not authorized to offer individual collegiate props.
Hartman pointed out that regulators have considered integrating the allowance of esports betting. This comes on the heels of NASCAR introducing virtual races as well as the rise in popularity surrounding other video games. Such inclusions bring potential revenue during a time without sports.
“It’s got the same process for approval,” Hartman said of esports. “We’ll put it on the sports catalog; we’ll get as many of those that we already have targeted approved by the commission. … As long as they have a governing body, they have a league, and they can show us how it works, then we’ve got the ability to bring it up.”
From a macro standpoint, Colorado will feature an array of brands, including well-known and well-established bookmakers. To date, the CLGCC has approved 11 online operators, including a half-dozen at a recent meeting.
Other approved sportsbooks include:
- Roar Digital
- Rush Street Interactive
- Penn Sports Interactive
- Circa Sports
- Fox Bet
A slow build is a good thing for CO sports betting
While attempting to articulate the craziness of the past few weeks, Hartman chuckled while settling on the term “interesting.” Even as leagues suspended seasons, as organizers canceled events, as virtually every potential offering of a Colorado sportsbook went on hiatus, Hartman maintains confidence in the state’s industry debut.
Easing into legalized sports betting as opposed to cannonballing into the deep end is an added benefit.
“It gives us a chance to iron out any bugs that we didn’t see,” Hartman said. “I think it gives the operators the same ability to do that. We’re not slammed with a hundred things all at once. It comes up slowly; we see some things that we may have missed and/or the operator may have missed in their startup.
“I think engineers love it because they can put their software out and get it going and do it slowly without being hammered every single minute, 24/7. I think accountants for the big companies probably don’t love it as much because they’re not bringing in as much revenue. But I think this is a great way to launch it, slowly, for us to do some of those things.”
Certainly, anticipation and excitement abound in Colorado. It will become the 18th state to feature regulated sports betting, an industry that could lead to as much as $6 billion in handle and $40 million in taxed revenue.
Hartman, though, will reserve celebrations for a later date.
“The reality of the excitement, I think, is really being overshadowed — and rightfully so — by what’s going on in the world right now,” he said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic. “I think that’s the catch is that it will probably launch without a lot of hype and a lot of other things just because it may not be the perfect time to be pumped and excited about it.
“There’ll be a day for the fanfare and some of the other stuff, but I think right now, the way things are in the world, it’s probably not the proper time for the fanfare and excitement.”