Local Teams Feeling the Love From Colorado Sports Bettors in Market’s Opening Weeks

Colorado residents love their Denver Broncos. That part isn’t news. It seems that love goes beyond just cheering for the team on game day, however. Over the last week, futures bets on the Broncos took over at least one sportsbook in the state. 

Legal sports betting took effect on May 1 across Colorado and now we’ve had a bit more than a week to analyze data and get a sense of betting patterns. While it’s too early to forecast definitively, at least on first glance it appears not having American games to bet on doesn’t really matter to local bettors. 

“We saw tremendous engagement after one week of sports betting in Colorado,” said Stephen Miraglia, Director of Communications for DraftKings. “[The] popular futures, plus our current offers available in Colorado (table tennis, international soccer, etc.) are positive signs as we look forward to the return of major U.S. sports leagues.” 

For some, Korean and Chinese Taipei baseball more than filled the hole left by Major League Baseball’s shutdown. Others discovered Chinese table tennis. But a sport that hasn’t played a single game since February dominated the first week of betting, as Colorado residents wanted to bet on the Broncos

Broncos Take Control 

For the seven-day period that ended May 7, the Denver Broncos dominated DraftKings Sportsbook. The team was first in total bets, first in total handle and even first in bets to win the Super Bowl. All this despite what some see as a challenging season ahead for the rebuilding team. The average odds for Denver stand at 10-1 to win their division, the worst among the five teams. Projections range between 7 to 8 wins. They have a quarterback in Drew Lock with less than 10 NFL starts under his belt, a rebuilding defense and an offense set to rely on at least one rookie receiver.

Sportsbooks don’t have as much faith in the Broncos as bettors, with the team sitting at 50-1 odds to win the Super Bowl for most. By comparison, that’s lower than both the Los Angeles Chargers, who sit at 45-1 and the new home team in Nevada, the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders currently sit at 30-1. DraftKings bettors in Colorado didn’t focus on that, however, choosing the Broncos as first in bets and first in handle to win the Super Bowl. 

While other sportsbooks didn’t share as much support for the team’s Super Bowl chances, they did for the players. For example, the first bet placed on BetRivers.com May 1 was by retired NBA star Chauncey Billups, who put $100 on Broncos receiver Jerry Jeudy to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. Other people picked up on that and followed. Jeudy currently stands at +1600 on DraftKings and is the most popular pick for the honor across the board in the state, by both bets and handle. Lock meanwhile has the most bets in Colorado for NFL MVP, second in handle only to Lamar Jackson. 

Futures Betting Drives Early Action

Beyond the Broncos, Colorado bettors were interested in familiar sports, if not familiar faces, during week one. Futures bets weren’t the largest segment across all sportsbooks, but it was the case for DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbook. Bettors at the two sites focused first on home teams, with favorites also getting a significant piece. In the NHL, the Avalanche were first in both total bets and handle. The Nuggets were first in bets and second in handle for the NBA and in Major League Baseball, the Rockies drew an identical amount of support. 

It highlighted the support home teams have from Colorado bettors, regardless of their record. The Nuggets, for example, were third in the Western Conference at 43-22 when play stopped. And yet Colorado bettors wagered on them to win the championship over the first-place Lakers at 49-14 and the second-place Clippers at 44-20. The Nuggets at least had a strong track record, finishing second in the conference in the 2018-19 season with a 54-28 record. The Rockies, on the other hand, are a rebuilding team, having finished the 2019 season with a 71-91 record. And yet, in the first week of sports betting, the Rockies were first in handle and second in bets on DraftKings for MLB. Only the New York Yankees had more bets placed and more bettors deciding they would win the World Series. 

Sharps vs. Squares

The data points to who is betting, at least during the first week. It’s a case of sharps vs. squares. The first week of Colorado sports betting has been mainly controlled by “square” or casual bettors. Putting down a wager for a square bettor is simply something fun to do, something for entertainment or in this case, to ease boredom. Traditionally, square bettors go with who they know, even against significant odds. They pick the home team, the group they support or the favorite. 

Sharp bettors, on the other hand, see this was a way to make money. To them, it’s more like a job. These are professional bettors with a track record of winning. They look at the lines, analyze data and choose the option that has the biggest chance of winning big. The opening week of sports betting in Colorado has little to attract sharp bettors. There’s no history and very little data to go on. Right now, there’s also only a few games, so most of the bets are focused on futures. That’s not as attractive to sharp bettors. As leagues reopen, that will change. Just as important is a decision state officials made on May 6, when they expanded what Colorado residents are allowed to bet on. Anticipating the return of leagues, officials added tennis, golf, basketball and baseball to the list. 

It takes time to attract sharp bettors, so for the foreseeable future, the recreational market will be what drivers betting in Colorado.

About the Author

Brian Carlton

Brian Carlton is an award-winning journalist who has covered casinos, the gaming and finance industries for more than a decade. His work has been published by the BBC and a variety of newspapers across the U.S.