Colorado Moving Ahead With Legal Sports Betting For Now

For the moment, legalized sports betting in Colorado is still set to officially launch on May 1. What remains to be seen is whether any casino planning to offer a live sportsbook will actually be open for business on that date.

In the wake of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic crisis, live casinos nationwide have shuttered day-to-day operations at their physical properties, and Colorado’s commercial casinos are shut down until at least the end of April.

Colorado is still under a 30-day shutdown Gov. Jared Polis declared last month. This affects casinos, all well as other public businesses such as restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, breweries and coffeehouses. This order initially pointed to mid-April for the re-opening of many of the state’s businesses but has since been extended to April 30.

The actual date for the re-opening of Colorado’s casinos could extend beyond that, however, as the uncertainty of the unprecedented pandemic continues to halt the casino industry across the country.

No Official Changes Yet

The latest public statement on potential changes to the May 1 date came at a meeting of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (CLGCC) on March 19.

At the meeting, Colorado Division of Gaming director Dan Hartman said that, for now, the May 1 launch date for land-based retail, as well as online sports betting, is still the target.

“We have not really approached the launch date yet,” Hartman said. “We’re still moving everything forward as far as licensing and everything to make sure we reach that May 1 date, and are able to go. 

Those discussions will certainly happen later on, probably in April as this crisis moves forward and we will see where the casino industry is at the time.” 

A potential April 30 re-opening of the state’s commercial casinos would provide the narrowest of windows to get land-based sportsbooks up and running by May 1.

Subsequently, a special meeting of the CLGCC was held by video conference on April 2, during which 32 sports betting licenses were granted to casinos around Colorado.

Hartman acknowledged that Colorado’s nascent sports betting market is somewhat in limbo due to the coronavirus pandemic, but said the commission was “moving forward with the administrative part of sports betting” and that the April 2 approvals represented “a big piece” of that goal.

“Most of our folks are working from home, rotating shifts in the mountain towns, and we’ve got to work through this entirely new world,” he said.

Approved Operators

When legal sports betting does launch in Colorado, plenty of betting options will be available at the state’s online and land-based commercial casinos. All of those casinos operate in the towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.

The following list includes operators that have so far been awarded Master Licenses by the CLGCC. The Master License allows for both retail, land-based operations, as well as online sports betting offerings, by the owner of the license:

The May 1 launch date for land-based sports betting could be in jeopardy for these operators, but online sports betting could still be introduced to Colorado bettors on that date.

Other Potential Obstacles

In addition to the casino industry shutdown, most of the major sports leagues, both domestic and international, have postponed or outright cancelled all events for the immediate future.

NCAA college basketball cancelled the remainder of both its men’s and women’s seasons. This in turn shut down betting on the NCAA tournament, one of the biggest events on the calendar for bettors, right before March Madness was slated to begin.

The NBA and NHL were both in the last stretches of the regular season when both of league’s schedules were abruptly shut down amid the pandemic. Major League Baseball has postponed the beginning of its regular season from late March to mid-May at the earliest.

Numerous other sporting leagues and events around the world have been postponed, with the Kentucky Derby as the latest major U.S. event being pushed back. 

The celebrated horse racing event has been moved from its original May 2 run date to a tentative Sept. 5. The other two events comprising horse racing’s Triple Crown, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, are expected to be pushed back as well.

It’s unknown if the state of uncertainty in the sports will have any effect on the launch of Colorado’s sportsbooks, but for now the COVID-19 crisis continues both within the sports world and the sports betting industry.

About the Author

Geoffrey Fisk

Geoff Fisk is a San Diego-based freelance writer, specializing in the poker and gambling industries. He’s written for numerous platforms and has traveled the globe as a live poker tournament reporter. Geoff’s interests include the legal online poker industry in the U.S. and abroad. Follow Geoff on Twitter at @GeoffFisk