5/14 FOREVER: Sports Betting Booming in Colorado Two Years After Legalization

Sports betting quickly has become an integral part of Colorado’s culture and economy in the two years since it became legal in the Centennial State.

Dimers.com contributor and proud Coloradan David Miles takes a look back at how far his state has come.

By the end of last year, Colorado bettors had wagered more than $5 billion since legalization in 2020.

The state’s total sports betting handle for this March was $505.6 million, a roughly 68 percent increase from March 2021, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Division of Gaming.

Sports betting has skyrocketed since it became legal in May 2020, when bettors wagered just $25.6 million on sports

 

At the time, the sports betting market faced significant hurdles due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Colorado casinos to temporarily close their doors and collegiate and professional sports to pause.  

Table tennis was the most popular sports bet in that first month of sports betting, which became legal in Colorado after voters narrowly passed Proposition DD in November 2019.

The U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for legalized sports betting in America on May 14, 2018, when it overturned the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, otherwise known as PASPA, by a vote of 6-3. 

I vividly remember the launch of legalized sports betting in Colorado.  

An avid sports fan, I was starved for sports action after COVID-19 led to the cancellation of March Madness for the first time in the history of the basketball tournament and to putting a hold on the MLB, NHL, and NBA seasons, as well as the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.  

Despite the dearth of wagering options, sports betting became legal in Colorado on May 1, 2020, accompanied by an onslaught of online sportsbook ads on television, radio, and billboards.

I think I still can hear former NBA guard Kenny Smith’s driver blurting out, “Kenny!” in the nonstop BetMGM ads even though they stopped airing two years ago.  

Although I eventually succumbed to the ads and opened a BetMGM account, my first online sportsbook account was with FanDuel.  

Unlike some of my fellow Coloradan bettors, I wasn’t ready to start betting on table tennis just yet. Through the magic of advertising, I learned that there was a sport that I had some knowledge of and was still being played in May 2020: baseball. That’s right, there was still live baseball in South Korea. 

There might not been any fans in the stands, but I could watch Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) games in the wee hours of the morning on ESPN and bet on them online.  

After somehow racking up $50 in bonuses in random bets on everything from sports to weather predictions in FanDuel’s “Colorado Anything” promotion, I tried the sportsbook’s risk-free bet promotion to place my first legal sports bet in Colorado on the red-hot NC Dinos.

I won my bet and found myself wagering on Korean baseball, in part because it was on ESPN when my insomnia demons kept me awake, but mostly because it was one of the few betting options that didn’t require me to brush up on table tennis. 

Sports betting has come a long way in Colorado since my days of betting on the KBO’s “Insomnia Ball” at the height of the pandemic.

Live sports are back in the United States, bettors are gambling on a variety of sports, and Colorado water projects received $11.7 million last year from a 10 percent tax on the net proceeds from sports bets.  

In addition, there are 26 online sports betting operators in Colorado and 17 retail operators in the gaming towns of Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek.  

While this might not rival the state’s gold rush of the 19th century, it’s clear that sports betting has become a significant part of Colorado’s economy and culture. 

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