olorado is expected to issue its first sports betting licenses next week, a little more than two months ahead of the launch of voter-sanctioned wagering at participating casinos and online.
Seven of the Colorado casinos that have applied for master licenses are up for approval at a meeting of the state’s Limited Gaming Control Commission on Thursday, The Denver Post reports. Obtaining a master license is the first step necessary to get sports gambling up and running before the first bets can be placed May 1. These licenses permit casinos to open physical sports books onsite and to contract with companies to operate digital sportsbooks via web-based or mobile apps.
Gambling was first legalized by voters in the Centennial State in 1990 as an effort to revitalize the mountain towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. The first casinos opened in October 1991. Last November, voters narrowly approved Proposition DD, which expands gambling in Colorado by allowing for legalized betting on professional sports, including eSports. A 10% tax collected from casinos — amounting to an estimated $29 million a year — will be allocated to Colorado’s water plan.
The casinos up for the first round of license approval next week include Monarch Casino Resort Spa and Saratoga Casino in Black Hawk; Dostal Alley in Central City; and Double Eagle Hotel and Casino, Brass Ass Casino, J.P. McGill’s Hotel and Casino, and Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino in Cripple Creek.
Many are still figuring out exactly what to offer gamblers, but they’re likely to double down on digital betting. Gambling and technology executives anticipate 90% of sports betting in the United States will be done on mobile phones and the internet within the next decade. In Colorado, app providers are required to affiliate with a casino to be able to operate in the state — even if their users never set foot in the three mining-turned-gambling towns.
Buddy Schmalz, co-owner of Dostal Alley, is considering both physical and digital options, but plans to find an app partner first. Casino and sportsbook partnerships typically include a revenue-sharing agreement, which would open a new stream of income for his 29-year-old casino.
Whether or not he will be ready to go by May 1, however, remains to be seen. The operators of both physical and digital sportsbooks require separate licenses that need to be approved by the Limited Gaming Control Commission. The commission has received more than 50 applications since it started accepting them in November. “My guess is it’s really tough given the time frame and whoever we partner up with,” Schmalz said.
Bigger casinos already are laying the groundwork. Last July, before sports betting was approved by voters, Double Eagle entered a partnership with digital betting platform PointsBet to launch both retail and digital sportsbooks. The retail location in Cripple Creek is expected to include a sports bar and multiscreen video and odds display wall.
This month, Century Casinos announced it would partner with the app Circa Sports Colorado to provide digital wagering through one of its three casinos starting May 1. Twin River Worldwide Holdings, which recently purchased the Golden Gates, Golden Gulch and Mardi Gras casinos in Black Hawk, also has inked deals with DraftKings and FanDuel digital providers. The company plans to add a retail DraftKings sportsbook onsite at one of the casinos.