Colorado Launches Online Sports Betting & Is Poised For Success In 2021

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Colorado legalized sports betting in November 2019, and it officially launched in May 2020. Its launch was dampened by the COVID-19 pandemic. But Colorado sports betting grew into a successful industry nonetheless, largely due to the early availability of online wagering. Colorado bettors made 98% of their wagers online in the first six months of sports betting. That set Colorado sports betting up for early success during a time with few sports playing.

Online sports betting launched in Tennessee just a few months after the Colorado launch. Tennessee operators were able to look at Colorado’s success and history of sports betting in planning their launch. 

How Colorado Legalized Sports Betting

Colorado’s gambling industry has traditionally been confined to its three casino cities:

  • Black Hawk
  • Central City
  • Cripple Creek

In 1990, Coloradans voted to allow gambling in these three cities with strict betting limits. It was a modest step to allowing casino gambling in Colorado. It also passed with 57% of the vote, which is roughly what gaming measures pass by in Colorado.

Sports betting legalization was a sharp departure from limited gaming. Mobile sports betting puts a sportsbook in every eligible bettor’s hand. However, it wasn’t without precedent. In 2008, Colorado voters decided to increase betting limits in the casino cities from $5 to $100. It was an early sign that Coloradans were open to expanded gaming. Retail and online sports betting were a natural progression from a state whose voters were increasingly amenable to new forms of gambling.

And larger wagers, of course.

This is one of the key differences between sports betting in Tennessee and Colorado. Colorado has a long history of retail casino gaming whereas Tennessee has no brick and mortar casinos in the state. 

Sports Betting’s Financial Impact On Colorado

When sports betting launched on May 1, the first pandemic lockdowns were still in place. Casinos remained closed, so online sports betting was the only available option. Online sports betting has remained the primary revenue driver for Colorado sports betting. 98% of Colorado wagers were made online in the first six months of sports betting. 91% of the sports betting tax revenue from those first six months came from online wagers, too. That’s a big chunk of the $1.6 million tax bill.

However, Colorado has another twist to its early sports betting revenue.

Half of that $1.6 million came from one month: October. That was the first full month of NFL bets. It could’ve also been the month where sportsbooks began to shift from attracting customers to pleasing them. It’s not that sportsbooks weren’t doing that before. It’s that the NFL is the most popular league to wager on. Sportsbooks would’ve wanted to get as many customers as they could before the NFL season. November’s tax bill was just over $790,000, which suggests sportsbooks have enough gross revenue to pay a lot of taxes.

Why Online Sports Betting Is So Popular

However, the convenience of online sports betting is appealing to bettors of all stripes. It’s easier to bet on a game from the couch than braving a long trip on I-70 or I-25. It’ll also add a new dimension to post-pandemic Super Bowl watch parties. Betting competitions between Broncos fans will turn up the heat in bettors’ best friends’ garages. Online betting will likely continue dominating Colorado’s sports betting industry after the pandemic.

Bettors in Colorado should expect retail sports betting to get a big boost once the pandemic ends. As vaccinations roll out, more people will want to do something social. Everyone’s tired of being cooped up, and that effect has a good chance to replicate throughout many other industries, too. Sports betting has a bright future in Colorado.

Online sports betting has also been popular throughout the fall in Tennessee. This is, in part, because there are no retail sportsbooks in Tennessee. Also, they’ve been helped by the Tennessee Titans actually doing well this season, leading the AFC South heading into the end of the regular season. The Broncos can’t say the same. 

Colorado Sportsbooks

Colorado had 16 live online sportsbooks at the end of 2020, with more expected to arrive in 2021. It’s a growing industry that’s attracting big brands and local sportsbooks alike. Bettors can find recognizable brands like DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM. However, Colorado also has home-grown sportsbooks like BetMonarch, BetWildwood, and Sky Ute Sportsbook. It’s a diverse landscape of sportsbook companies that are finding homes in Colorado.

Colorado also had 12 retail sportsbooks at the end of 2020. Although retail sports betting hasn’t been popular in 2020, casinos and sportsbooks are looking ahead to normal times. Most Colorado casinos have partnerships with sportsbook companies. But a few are using their own sportsbooks in their casinos. Wildwood Casino is using its in-house sportsbook instead of contracting out. It’s part of the local touch that Colorado engenders in its sportsbook industry.

Betting On Sports In Colorado

Over the past 30 years, Colorado has become more friendly to gaming. Colorado began by introducing casinos to three mountain towns and progressed to offering a wide range of sports betting options. Online sports betting dominates Colorado’s sports betting market, but retail should get a boost as the pandemic ends. Tax revenues remain modest, but Colorado has time to catch up to sports betting powerhouses like New Jersey. Colorado offers sportsbook brands big and small. However, each offers its own competitive slice of sports betting for eager mountain bettors.

The same can be said for Tennessee bettors. Although they don’t have access to retail sportsbooks as they do in both Colorado and states like New Jersey, the state has already seen success with online sports betting.