Colorado voters narrowly approved a referendum Tuesday legalizing sports wagering. But when will you be able to place your first bet on the Avalanche, Broncos, Nuggets or Rockies?
Proposition DD passed by more than 40,000 votes out of more than 1.5 million cast. The results won’t be official until Nov. 27, but the vote isn’t close enough to trigger a recount and the result is unlikely to change even as overseas military ballots and provisional ballots are counted during the next three weeks.
No additional legislation is needed before sports betting becomes legal. A separate vote in Cripple Creek allowing sports wagering also passed Tuesday by a 3-to-1 margin.
Legal sports wagering won’t start immediately, however. The Colorado Division of Gaming must first establish regulations and licensing procedures for sports betting operators. Colorado will become the 12th state to legalize sports betting after the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a federal law banning such wagering anywhere but Nevada. At least 30 other states have considered making sports bets legal.
All 35 Colorado casinos, including 12 in Cripple Creek, are expected to open a sports betting operation or “sports book.” Online or mobile betting requires a casino-based location, and those books could range from kiosks to large sports bars with banks of televisions and displays featuring odds on major sporting events.
The fiscal impact statement for Proposition DD estimated Colorado sports book operators would generate between $1.3 billion and $1.5 billion in bets during the first fiscal year, which would begin July 1.
Here are answers to some key questions about the new gambling plan from experts interviewed by The Gazette: Dan Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming; Johnny Aitken, CEO of PointsBet, which will run sports betting at the Double Eagle Hotel and Casino; and Jason Trost, CEO of Smarkets, which will operate the online sports betting operation for Bronco Billy’s Casino.
When will sports betting start?
Don’t expect to be able to bet on the Broncos this season, the Super Bowl or the Final Four. PointsBet and Smarkets both expect legal sports wagering to begin in May, soon enough to make bets on the Avalanche and Nuggets, if they make the playoffs, and the Rockies for most of the regular season. The Colorado Division of Gaming expects to have regulations in place by spring and be able to license operators and give them a period to test their systems before accepting bets when sports betting becomes legal May 1. Hartman said the division has been researching regulations in Iowa, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey and other states where sports wagering is legal to determine what works and what doesn’t, then will tailor those regulations to fit Colorado law and its “gaming landscape.”
Where can I make bets?
You will be able to make bets inside any Colorado casino in Black Hawk, Central City or Cripple Creek and possibly at tribal casinos in the state’s southwestern corner. Each casino license holder also is allowed to have a mobile/online betting platform, where a Colorado resident will be able to open an account, place bets and designate where to receive any winnings. So once you open an account, you can makes bets by phone or computer anywhere in the state. No bets can be made through the platforms from locations outside the state, however. Customers will be required to enable location-based services on their mobile devices to ensure they are in Colorado.
Do I have to go to a casino to open a sports betting account?
No, both Points-Bet and Smarkets plan to allow Colorado customers to establish accounts, bet and designate where to receive winnings online. PointsBet and Smarkets plan to take payments and pay winnings with debit or credit cards, bank transfers and PayPal accounts. Odds on any bet are set by the operators and dictate how much you win. Funds from your bet will be held in escrow until after the sporting event is over.
How do I collect my winnings?
You will be able to choose how to receive any winnings, but sports betting operators generally want to pay winnings to the same account from where the funds were paid for the bet so they don’t run afoul of federal money-laundering laws. You also can pick up your winnings at the casino if you bet there, or receive a check by mail, though that method will take far longer than cards, bank transfers or online payment systems.
What types of bets can I make and what bets will be prohibited?
Bets likely will be allowed on all professional and college sporting events, as well as sanctioned e-sports competitions ranging from picking the winning team, betting against the point spread, betting how many total points are scored and many other types of wagers. Parlays involving multiple games or sporting events also likely will be allowed. “Proposition bets” on individual players, such as who will make the first score, how many points they will score and many others, will be allowed for professional players, but not for college players. No betting will be allowed on high school sporting events or any other sporting event involving players under 18 years old (such as the Little League World Series). No other restrictions are planned, Hartman said.
Will there be a limit on how much I can bet?
While bets at Colorado casinos on slot machines or table games are limited to $100, the Division of Gaming will not set a maximum bet for sports wagering, Hartman said.
Will sports betting operations not affiliated with a Colorado casino be able to operate in the state?
Only operations affiliated with Colorado casinos will be allowed to take legal bets in the state. No state allows legal betting across state lines.
Will legal sports betting open the door to other forms of online gaming?
Colorado law doesn’t allow legal online betting on casino games such as slot machines, poker, blackjack, craps and roulette. Both Aitken and Trost believe legal sports wagering will help make Coloradans more comfortable with online gambling, which could pave the way to voters allowing other forms of wagering.