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Colorado’s Long-Targeted May 1 Legal Sports Betting Launch Realized

After months of planning by Colorado legislators and regulators, their legal online sports betting platform finally went live on Friday even though COVID-19 has effectively shut down the industry worldwide. Despite a serious lack of sports to bet on, Colorado decided to forge ahead with legal sports betting. Four betting providers were lined up, waiting for the starters' pistol with others waiting in the wings according to the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (CLGCC).

While launching a sports betting platform during a global sports shutdown is a bit like opening a KFC during a major chicken shortage, hopes are that selling “wagering sides" like KFC's biscuits and coleslaw will at least give bettors a taste of what their platform will look like once the world returns to normal. Online casinos, futures bets, esports, and wagers on obscure leagues around the globe will have to suffice for now while the planet struggles to dig out of the coronavirus hole.

“This is a different way of launching than what we thought would happen three months ago, but the whole world has changed since then,” said Dan Hartman, the gaming division’s executive director. “Some of the operators are looking at this as a soft launch to get the bugs out.”

Which providers were there Friday?

Rush Street Interactive claims that it has won the race to be the first to market in Colorado with its Kambi-powered BetRivers mobile betting site which is affiliated with J.P. McGill’s Hotel and Casino. Rush Street officially went live at 10 AM local time on Friday with the others close behind.

Roar Digital, the joint venture between MGM Resorts and GVC Holdings went live with the popular BetMGM site in association with Triple Crown Casinos’ Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino and two of the biggest rival Fantasy site providers have already put a stake in Colorado’s landscape at Twin River’s Golden Mardi Gras Casino and another one of the Twin Rivers's properties, Golden Gates Casino.

Which providers are on the horizon?

Just four operators have gone live in Colorado with many more to follow suit in the near future. PointsBet has committed to the state, UK-based Smarkets should be live in the next few days, William Hill should be up-and-running in the next couple of months and Nevada-based SuperBook is expected to be a force in the next few months.

Other operators on Colorado's market horizon include BetAmerica, FoxBet, Betfred, Circa Sports, Digital Gaming, theScore, and Wynn. All-in-all there will be up to 33 licenses granted in the state of Colorado meaning that lack of competition definitely won’t be an issue.

Which sports can Colorado count on?

The sports betting menu will be limited to start off. Not surprising. Sports such as Korean baseball, Ukrainian and Russian table tennis, Taiwanese basketball, Russian ice hockey, and English darts are available to bet on immediately. Of course, futures bets on the 2021 Super bowl winners as well as the champions in every Major league around the world will be popular.

Rush Street has committed to taking on some esports action. eNascar, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are on the limited betting menu.

MMA is set to resume May 9 with UFC 249 which should give the sports betting world a nice boost and operators in Colorado a decent idea of just where the market stands. There was talk of German soccer returning in May, golf has announced a plan to return in June, and MLB and other North American sports are in various stages of planning to re-open their seasons.

For now, the voter-approved laws in Colorado prohibit betting on topics like politics, entertainment, and the weather.

Expectations for Colorado

Colorado has long been one of the more anticipated sports betting launches. Optimism was rampant prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but those feelings have been tempered to say the least. “The playbook has kind of gone out the window. We will have to see how this rolls out and when sports get back to normal and what that looks like. There’s no data on that right now,” said Dan Hartman, Colorado's gaming division’s executive director.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, there were reports of Colorado generating between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion annually in bets. The expected tax dollar boon from the legal sports betting industry is scheduled to go directly to aiding with Colorado's water issues.

The state of Colorado will be a juicy market once things get back to normal in the US. But there is no quick fix to what coronavirus has done to industry and society as a whole. Sports will come back, bettors will return – it’s a matter of when, not if.