Online sports betting was small at first. Colorado’s unemployment rate was over 10% when sports betting went live in May 2020. However, sports betting revenue almost quintupled from May to August. That sounds like an amazing feat, but most of the revenue growth only came from a few sports. In fact, most of that revenue growth has only come from four or five.
How A Few Sports Birthed A Healthy Sports Betting Industry
The first two months of Colorado sports betting were dominated by bets on:
- Table tennis
- Parlay bets
- The vacuous ‘Other’ category
During the pandemic summer, the most popular sports leagues canceled or delayed their seasons. That left bettors with a limited sports selection in May and June. So, table tennis became the bored bettors’ choice sport. Especially bettors who enjoyed the mesmerizing trick shots that characterize table tennis.
However, parlay bets became an early pandemic favorite, too. Parlay bets are wagers made of bets across sports or teams. Bettors must win every bet that makes up the parlay bet, or they lose. Parlays are popular because they increase the odds and create a potential payout that’s hard to resist. Anyone who sees a chance to turn $2 into $1.2 million would have a hard time resisting the temptation to try. That’s an extreme example, but possible to do with a long string of parlay bets.
That leaves the ‘other’ category. Colorado’s monthly reports list the top ten sports bettors wager the most money on. The ‘other’ sports are the ones that aren’t in the top ten. In May and June, ‘other’ was between a third and a quarter of the market:
That means most sports were generating similar amounts of revenue. The top ten almost seemed like an arbitrary list of similarly lucrative sports.
Then July happened.
How July Changed Colorado Sports Betting
If March was the American sports apocalypse, July was its resurrection. On July 13, the NHL announced its plan to resume the Stanley Cup Tournament. MLB’s opening night was on July 23. And of course, the NBA resumed its season on July 30. Three major leagues that Americans had missed during spring and summer were playing or had concrete plans to play. And these were some of the sports that American sports bettors missed the most.
Colorado’s enthusiasm for these three sports became clear during July. Here’s how much money bettors wagered on the most lucrative leagues during the first three months of legal sports betting:
|Basketball||Encompassed in 'Other' Category||$442,545.77||$3,334,819.96|
|Hockey||$117,395.06||Encompassed in 'Other' Category||$394,569.53|
Bettors paid a lot of attention–and money–to table tennis lines in May and June. But once baseball and basketball returned, table tennis lost its dominance. Table tennis revenue dropped by 44%, while baseball and basketball bets increased by more than 600%. Bettors wagered on familiar favorites, and Colorado’s sports betting industry gained steam.
But July’s dramatic jumps were nothing compared to what August had in store.
August Continued What July Started
Once August arrived, baseball, basketball, and hockey season were in full swing. Even better, football was only a month away, and it looked like it would come back. If bettors were excited in July, they were ravenous in August. Here’s how much they bet on their three favorite sports in August compared to July:
Those are staggering increases. Bettors wagered:
- Over 11 times more on basketball.
- Over 34 times more on hockey.
- More than double on baseball.
Meanwhile, table tennis fell out of bettor favor. Now that popular sports are back, bettors are flocking to their favorites and abandoning their quirky pandemic choices. Coloradans are replacing the thrill of attending games in person with betting on them from home.
What Will September’s Sports Betting Figures Look Like?
May and June showed us how much sports fans missed their favorite sports. Then, July and August showed us how much attention sports fans pay to a few key sports.
And September is going to show us what happens when we get football back.
In May, the NFL announced plans to play a regularly scheduled season, but it was too early to take that plan seriously. But now that the NFL is playing, bettors can expect to see it rake in more money than the other three core professional leagues. Professional football barely broke $126,000 in bets in August.
But baseball, basketball, and hockey weren’t big parts of the Colorado sports betting market until those leagues started playing. Football was in the top ten most lucrative sports for sportsbooks without live games. After six months of suspense, imagine how much money bettors are going to wager on professional football in September.
One More Consequence Of Four Popular Sports
Colorado sports bettors direct most of their wagers into baseball, basketball, and hockey. In September, we’ll see how their enthusiasm for football translates to betting behavior. But when four sports make up most of Colorado’s sports betting revenue, two other categories are affected. Here’s the total betting revenue for parlay bets and the ‘other’ sports over the summer:
|Total Sports Betting Revenue||$25,621,761.63||$38,136,949.16||$59,183,619.73||$128,646,209.09|
|Parlay bets as a percentage of total revenue||11.74%||12.25%||14.60%||17.62%|
|'Other' bets as a percentage of revenue||30.99%||27.63%||24.62%||11.01%|
Revenue from parlay bets and the ‘other’ sports have grown steadily over the first four months of legal sports betting. But parlays are becoming a bigger slice of the sports betting market. Bettors are wagering less on other sports as popular leagues return.
When September’s figures arrive, this trend will likely continue. Parlay bets create high odds that are as believable as they are unlikely. Football’s popularity–and our need for distractions from the pandemic and the election–will likely compound parlay betting’s popularity. Concurrently, it will likely diminish the ‘other’ category. Bettors just aren’t going to pay attention to darts or table tennis when the NFL is back on the field. Americans love four sports the most, and most of Colorado’s bets will be on those four sports.
Colorado’s Lucrative Sports Betting Industry
Colorado’s legislators laid the groundwork for a successful sports betting industry. Online and mobile sports betting were available immediately, which set Colorado apart from states like Michigan and New York. Colorado’s unemployment rate also began to drop in July, so more Colorado households were bringing in money again.
Sports betting started small with sports like table tennis. But when our favorite sports returned, bettors focused their wagers on their favorite sports. Baseball, basketball, and hockey returned first, but professional sports’ prodigal son is hot on their heels. Football is going to bring a massive influx of cash to Colorado sportsbooks–and the state, of course.
But as Colorado’s sportsbooks increasingly depend on a few core sports for revenue, other sports sections will become less important. Diverse selections of sports won’t be as important as they were during the pandemic. As long as football, baseball, basketball, and hockey are available in Colorado’s sportsbooks, they can satisfy most Colorado bettors.
Colorado sportsbooks need ‘other’ sports for the off-season. But until college sports return to normal, nothing can compete with professional football, baseball, basketball, or hockey. Colorado bettors just don’t have that same intense love for other sports.