Colorado bettors jumped at the chance to bet on all four major professional sports last month, boosting sports wagering in the state to more than $200 million, the Colorado Department of Revenue reported Friday.
Betting on baseball, football, basketball and hockey totaled nearly $135 million in September, nearly two-thirds of the $207.7 million total. That total was up 61% from August. All four major sports usually aren’t playing at the same time in September, but the end of the basketball and hockey seasons were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parlays and combination bets, most likely wagered on professional sports, made up another 13.5% of the total with the rest split by table tennis, tennis, soccer, college football, golf, mixed martial arts and other sports.
“Colorado is nowhere near maturity as a market, and yet its gains continue to put it among the top markets in the U.S.,” said Dustin Gouker, lead analyst for PlayColorado.com, a news, research and analysis website for the betting industry. “Interest in the Denver Broncos was bound to help spur interest in the NFL’s first two weeks. But September still managed to outpace what we could have reasonably expected just two months ago.”
For now, Colorado’s September betting total ranked fourth among states where sports betting is legal after New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania, but likely will end up fifth after Illinois numbers for last month are released, said Jessica Welman, another PlayColorado.com analyst. Illinois, which legalized sports betting in June, finished about $12 million ahead of Colorado for August.
Even though the professional hockey and basketball seasons ended Sept. 28 and Oct. 11, respectively, Max Bischel, vice president of U.S. operations for the Gambling.com Group said he expects the return of college football and a full month of NFL games (September included three weeks of games; October has four weeks of games) will more than make up the difference and put wagering for this month at more than $250 million.
Colorado bettors have wagered nearly $460 million since sports betting became legal in May with the total bet increasing every month. That growth has been driven by both the return of professional sports and the growth in sports wagering operators — 15 online operators hold Colorado licenses (including four launching last month), with 11 retail sportsbooks inside casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.
“Because we have so many (operator) launches, the industry is not done growing. This month’s record may stand for a little while, but I don’t think $200 million (a month) is where it tops out. The numbers still have a long way to go,” said Welman, who predicted the state would hit $1 billion in total sports wagering since legalization by year’s end. “Colorado’s growth is faster than the industry as a whole. That’s because it’s a larger state with a huge sports scene and culture.”
Nearly all the betting action in Colorado came online — retail sportsbooks generated just $3.77 million in wagers during September, or 2% of the total bets. Welman said Colorado’s retail sportsbook betting likely has been lower than other states because table games remain closed at some casinos, including all 12 in Cripple Creek, and because of the remote locations of the casinos — nearly an hour’s drive from the nearest metro area.
Despite the surge in betting, the state’s report shows sports betting operators continue to lose money — $3.39 million in September — as a result of massive promotional spending to sign up new customers, Welman said.
Despite those losses, betting operators paid nearly $70,000 in taxes last month to the state. More than $800,000 in tax revenue has been generated by sports wagering since legalization. Sportsbooks pay a 10% tax on profits, which funds Colorado water projects.
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