There were no big gatherings with ribbon cuttings or ceremonial first bets by local celebrities, but the four licensed operators that went live in Colorado Friday morning did what they could to make a virtual party. BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings, and FanDuel all launched their digital platforms, making the Centennial State the fourth this year to begin offering legal sports betting.
Illinois, Michigan, and Montana did so in early March, just days before the U.S. major professional sports leagues went on hiatus in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just last week, DraftKings went public on the NASDAQ in a world with few live sports, and this week, the company joined three others in offering consumers the chance to places wagers on U.S. pro-sport futures, golf, and UFC 249 alongside somewhat unfamiliar events like ping-pong, darts, and soccer in far-flung locales. Operators can offer more than 1,000 different bet types from Colorado’s sports betting catalog.
Two other operators — Smarkets and BetMonarch — have also been approved to accept mobile wagers in Colorado, and both have plans to go live later this month. In total nearly 20 operators are licensed for mobile wagering in Colorado.
Limited options didn’t curb enthusiasm
Chauncey Billups places the first bet with the new @BetRiversBook in Colorado, which launched today. Billups put $100 on Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year at +2000.
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) May 1, 2020
But the dearth of betting options didn’t seem to temper the enthusiasm of bettors or operators. In fact, some spun Friday’s launch as an opportunity.
“We look forward to offering Colorado sports fans the excitement and ease of betting with BetMGM and working alongside Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino to provide top class betting experiences in the state of Colorado,” Adam Greenblatt, CEO of ROAR Digital, said according to a press release Friday morning. “With a limited sports schedule currently, it’s the perfect time for new customers to learn how to use our feature-rich sports wagering product, ahead of the return of U.S. sports.”
BetMGM announced on Friday that its retail partner in Colorado is Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino.
It’s beautiful isn’t it? Happy first day of legal sports betting in Colorado pic.twitter.com/2Y6kbSlVBr
— O. Rod (@Rodriguez94__) May 1, 2020
BetRivers, owned by Rush Street Interactive, was among the most active on Twitter ahead of the launch, encouraging bettors to register. The company was recently named among the top three most powerful online gaming companies in the United States by eGaming Review (EGR).
“RSI has achieved these strong results in other markets because the family owned US company focuses precisely on what its BetRivers sportsbook players want – a high quality product with exciting sports betting options, knowledgeable customer service, and an overall friendly approach that treats every player with honesty and care,” Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive, said in a press release.
When BetRivers went live Friday, it wasted no time touting when the first bet came in — ex-Colorado and NBA All-Star Chauncey Billups bet $100 on Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to win offensive rookie of the year at +2000.
“This is huge for the state of Colorado, both the economy and for avid sports fans in the state,” Billups said in a press release from BetRivers. “Betting has become such a big part of the daily sports conversation and this move is a huge step in the right direction for the industry and the sports world.”
DraftKings and FanDuel were the first to announce they’d go live on May 1 in Colorado, but both launched shortly after BetMGM and BetRivers on Friday.
Colorado is now our seventh state with mobile sports betting, along with retail locations in four states.
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) May 1, 2020
DraftKings put out a press release announcing Colorado as the seventh market in which it is offering legal sports betting.
“We are thrilled to introduce Colorado’s passionate sports fans to DraftKings Sportsbook, the nation’s favorite mobile and online sports betting platform,” said Matt Kalish, co-founder and president, DraftKings North America. “Boasting a wide array of distinct sports categories and daily free-to-play games, customers across the state will always have a number of year-round, skin-in-the-game opportunities to engage with the premier sports betting experience DraftKings prides itself on.”
DraftKings is also offering free-to-play contests around pop culture, eSports and trivia games with cash prizes available daily.
FanDuel followed suit on Friday as well. The company is offering an additional perk at launch — its ANYTHINGBOOK, a daily free-to-play game that tests a fan’s sports and pop culture knowledge.
“Colorado is home to a passionate group of sports fans and we are incredibly excited to show them why FanDuel is the number one online sportsbook in the country,” said Mike Raffensperger, CMO of FanDuel Group. “Our free to play ANYTHINGBOOK game is designed to engage fans during this period of limited sporting events and introduce them to FanDuel Sportsbook’s unique features and markets.”
Getting ready for first sports bet
Bettors around the state were virtually licking their chops Friday morning in anticipation of placing their first bets.
Sports betting is live in Colorado! pic.twitter.com/AMVYTaobVu
— Jesse Williams (@JWilliams263) May 1, 2020
Sports betting begins today at 10am in Colorado. Making a futures bet on the Broncos. Over 7.5 wins . @BetRivers
— JoJo Turnbeaugh (@JoJoradio) May 1, 2020
And at least one operator was tweeting about its platform before the scheduled launch time, inviting consumers to register ahead of being able to place a bet.
Regulators relieved, excited
Colorado regulators had been promising since November, when voters approved sports betting via referendum, that they would be ready for May 1. At Thursday’s final meeting ahead of the launches, members of the Department of Revenue and Limited Gaming Control Commission were relieved and excited to have completed the work and be on the cusp of history.
“It’s nice to have a bit of a celebration with everything that has gone on,” LGCC chair Kristen Blessman said at the meeting.
And from Division of Gaming Director Dan Hartman: “It would have been a chore even without the pandemic. Everyone stepped up, I’m really proud of the staff and what we’ve done.”
Colorado’s retail casinos remain shuttered under a “safer-at-home” order from Gov. Jared Polis. But all 33 commercial casinos have been approved for Master Sports Betting licenses, and will likely open as quickly as possible once the economy reopens.