The pandemic has thrown a wrench into a lot of best-laid plans. But one thing that managed to stay on schedule was Colorado’s sports betting launch on May 1, even though casinos and major sports leagues were mostly shut down.
Sports betting was legalized in Colorado with the passage of Proposition DD at the ballot box in November. After the election, the Colorado Division of Gaming and Limited Gaming Control Commission had mere months to come up with a regulatory scheme for the brand-new industry. After a series of stakeholder meetings, a set of rules was adopted in February and the state began issuing its first licenses for online and retail sports betting.
In the first month of legalized sports betting in May, the total amount wagered was $25.6 million, a figure Division of Gaming director Dan Hartman called an “encouraging predictor of the potential for the Colorado sports betting market.” Wagers increased nearly 50% in June for a total of $38.1 million, and Hartman expects numbers to continue to rise as major sports resume and more operators launch.
PING PONG CLEANS UP
“The biggest impediment to launching sports betting in Colorado has been the fact that there haven’t really been any sports,” said Sarah Mercer, shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
The pandemic has caused an unprecedented disruption in big-league sports. Starting in March, the NBA suspended its season for more than four months, finally returning July 30 to play out the rest of the season in a bio-secure bubble at Walt Disney World. The NHL halted its season on March 12 (but resumed July 26), Major League Baseball pushed its regular season start date back from late March to late July, and the NFL is slated to start its season in September.
According to Hartman, the shakeup in professional sports schedules led some licensed sports betting operators to delay their launch until the end of July or even later in the summer or fall, but others decided to move ahead with their May 1 start date with the sports offerings available.
Table tennis has emerged as the unlikely winner in bringing in betting proceeds while the Big Four sports leagues have been on break. In May, wagers placed for table tennis totaled $6.6 million — more than the total for the next four sports combined. The paddle sport continued to dominate in June, when wagers exceeded $9 million, with soccer in second place at $4.1 million.
The complete version of this article appears in the Aug. 10 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read the rest of this, and other articles, from that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.