March 2020 may seem like a distant memory. But it’s easy to remember the calls to flatten the curve, social distance, and remain home to stop the spread of the coronavirus. It was a costly decision. The Colorado Business Economic Outlook went from projecting 40,100 new jobs to Colorado losing 128,500 jobs. However, the curve was flattened, sparing Colorado hospitals from the worst excesses of the pandemic.
But with coronavirus cases exploding in Colorado, another shutdown could be on the way. That means Colorado’s casinos would shut down again. Losing gaming revenue would be another hit to the State and the casinos. However, Colorado sportsbooks may prove resilient in the face of another round of lockdowns. Here’s how the next lockdown could look for Colorado sportsbooks.
Online Sports Betting Will Likely Be Safe
The vast majority of Colorado sports betting is online. 98.2% of Colorado’s wagers were online in September. Colorado allowed mobile sports betting since the industry went live May 1. So, it’s going to be resilient in the face of another round of casino shutdowns. Most of the online operators also have retail operations, so they should be able to weather the storm.
However, those retail operations could drain Colorado casinos’ finances. Sportsbooks with mobile apps and websites will be able to make up the lost revenue from online betting. However, any expenses that casinos incur from hosting a retail sportsbook won’t be made up so easily. The details of each casino’s licensing deal may provide a cash cushion somewhere. If sportsbooks have to pay casinos any cut of mobile revenue, then the casinos could maintain some breathing room. However, without access to specific deal terms, we can’t say how much good mobile betting will do for casinos during a shutdown.
Professional Sports Will Carry Online Sports Betting
The success–and possibly survival–of online sportsbooks depends on the availability of sports. Around the same time Colorado shut down, professional sports did, too. It was part of a wave of shutdowns nationwide to try to keep the coronavirus under control.
Since the lockdowns ended, professional sports leagues have found a way to keep staff and players safe. The NHL was the most successful league. It finished its coronavirus season with zero cases. It kept its players inside two strict bubbles so no one who was infected could reach them. While it wasn’t the only league to create bubbles, it took the most aggressive approach to player bubbles. American and Canadian teams had two separate bubbles while NHL teams were duking it out. The NHL didn’t go down to one bubble until the field was significantly narrowed.
However, several professional leagues finished their seasons when coronavirus cases were fewer than they are in November 2020. Bubbles worked when case counts held steady from month to month. But they’ll be tested when the NHL begins its next season in December.
Public health experts have been concerned about 2020’s winter for months. A projected 2,900 Americans could die from COVID-19 every day during winter 2020. Thanksgiving travel is expected to further exacerbate coronavirus spread.
The NHL’s next season begins during the winter and the NFL, NBA, and MLB still have games left in their seasons. They’re the bread and butter of Colorado sportsbooks. So, if those sports shut down again, Colorado sportsbooks will be short on betting options just like the spring.
How Can Colorado Sportsbooks Handle Sport Shutdowns?
If major sports cancel their leagues again, Colorado sportsbooks have some ways to cope. First, they can offer international leagues as they did in the spring. Bettors may not be as excited about South Korean Baseball now that Major League Baseball is back. However, table tennis has gained a pandemic following among Colorado bettors. It’s been a consistent revenue driver throughout the first five months of betting.
However, the four core professional leagues will be a hit to Colorado’s sportsbooks. In September, professional football was the second-most bet-on sport in Colorado. The first was baseball, the third was basketball, and the fourth is hockey. Losing those four leagues knocks about a quarter of Colorado’s betting handle out in one fell swoop.
But the market could adjust, too. Bettors could shift their dollars from the four core professional leagues to available international leagues. They could also switch to sports like darts, which was readily available throughout the shutdown. (Although, other leagues like Belarusian soccer were available because their countries didn’t contain the coronavirus. It’s a mixed bag.) Bettors may make some of the lost revenue up on other sports. However, don’t expect to see the same amount of betting handle. Bettors may be trying to scratch a betting itch, but they won’t be as enthusiastic about the Modus Icons of Darts.
How Likely Are Colorado Casino Shutdowns?
Unlikely, but still possible. In an interview with the Colorado Sun, Governor Jared Polis voiced his opposition to another March/April-style lockdown. He believes the knowledge we’ve gained since March and the steps the State has taken in expanding testing and hospital capacity mean that Coloradans have enough information to contain the virus themselves. It’s an asinine belief considering the most strident opponents to masks, social distancing, and limited gatherings know the guidance but ignore it.
However, the virus could get so bad that the Governor would have no other choice but to lockdown. Hospital capacity may be larger, but if it’s overwhelmed, there may be no other option. The fate of Colorado’s casinos will largely be in the hands of its citizens. Based on coronavirus cases and planned Thanksgiving travels, casinos and retail sportsbooks should keep a wary eye on the Governor’s office.
What To Expect From Colorado Sportsbooks And Casinos
Unless the Governor changes his mind on a lockdown, Colorado casinos probably won’t close. But if casinos close, online sportsbooks will still be able to resist the resulting economic downturn. However, coronavirus cases could become so numerous that professional sports would have to shut down again. That would hit online sportsbooks’ bottom lines and reduce state sports betting revenue.
Casino shutdowns will likely depend on how ordinary Coloradans handle the coronavirus. October and November’s numbers are discouraging. If cases overrun hospitals, that could push Governor Polis to initiate new lockdowns. Casinos have implemented their own restrictions, but this winter will tell whether outside intervention is necessary.