Let The Sports Betting Begin: DraftKings Looks Toward Colorado Launch Following IPO

The state’s casinos are closed and American sporting events are shut down, but there is excitement building over Friday’s launch for sports betting in Colorado. That wouldn’t seem to make sense, as there’s no baseball to bet on and it will be at least a month before NASCAR starts up again. The NFL Draft helped, but that’s a temporary measure. So why are industry officials so optimistic about Colorado? It’s because the data from other states shows people don’t need a “major” sport in order to wager. 

‘New’ Sports Attract Interest

“When you lose some of your core events, starting with the NCAA basketball tournament, NBA and NHL playoffs, you have to get creative,” said Johnny Avello, DraftKings’ Head of Sportsbook. And creative perfectly describes what the company is doing. They’re offering bets on basketball and baseball in Chinese Taipei, soccer in Belarus, esports and table tennis, which Avello said is proving to be a hit. 

“Our customers seem to enjoy table tennis immensely,” he said. “There’s different ways to bet the table tennis. It’s pros from Russia and Ukraine and you can bet either before the match starts or once the match starts. You can bet point by point or on how many points the match will go.” 

So far, the most popular bets for table tennis are who will win and point by point. It may also be the first time some gamers have followed baseball in Chinese Taipei, but wagers are being posted daily on individual games and futures for the four-team league. The Uni-Lions are the heavy favorite to win it all, followed by the Chinatrust Brothers. These are teams most gamers had never heard of just two weeks ago, but now if you look at the steady traffic both on the app and the website, you can’t tell much of a difference between the pre-shutdown and post-shutdown operation. 

“Our company’s doing fine during this whole thing,” Avello said. “We’ve found new ways and explored new ways of booking, new types of options to book and as far as we’re concerned, everything’s fine.” 

A Perfect Time to go Public

The company felt secure enough to stick with plans to go public. Traditionally, companies go through an initial public offering, but DraftKings went a different route. The company merged with gaming technology firm SBTech and Diamond Eagle Acquisition Corp, a firm that was already publicly traded. Announced in December 2019, the plan came to fruition April 24 and the stock market responded. DraftKings stock on that first day of trading climbed up to 18.3 percent at times, before finishing at $19.35. Nearly a week later at the close of market on April 28, the stock was just over a dollar less at $18.24. 

“The company’s been working on it for quite some time,” Avello said. “The company’s rock solid. And [while] we’re all in this period where there’s some uncertainty, we all know we’re gonna come out of this, whether it’s three months from now or six months from now.” 

To Avello’s point, the future for sports betting does look strong, even with some leagues shut down. In fact, consulting company ProdegeMR just released a study projecting $14 billion in revenue from overall online sports betting in America this year. That’s double the $7 billion generated in 2019. Part of that spike is due to a growing interest in sports betting but more than that, there’s increased access compared to last year. Multiple states have either launched programs since January or plan to in the months ahead. 

Is Colorado Ready for Sports Betting?

And that’s where Colorado comes in. On Friday, sports betting will go live, but DraftKings has been introducing themselves to the state for several months now. You can download the DraftKings app and take part in free pools to figure out how it works. 

“We’re doing things like dream brackets, we’re doing [the TV show] Chopped, we’re doing Top Chef and then we’re opening the app Friday,” Avello said. 

And once that launch happens, people across the state will be able to bet on futures for all of the sports leagues, as well as the aforementioned soccer, table tennis and baseball currently going on. NASCAR has mentioned they plan to return to live events on Memorial Day weekend, so Colorado residents will be able to wager on that as well. 

Avello said much like in other states, he believes Colorado residents will find these may be different sports offered right now, but they still generate interest. 

“They’re obscure sports, but some of our patrons have really enjoyed playing on them,” Avello said. “We’re still offering all the core sports as far as the futures are concerned and hopefully we’ll be back in action with golf soon. Motorsports is planning on ramping up in May and hopefully all the other sports will follow “ 

As for how you deposit and cash out with DraftKings, Colorado Sharp helps walk you through the experience here. And if you have questions about the app before Friday’s launch, here you can find a brief description of the pros and cons. Overall, Avello said he sees potential in Colorado sports betting for one simple reason. 

“I see growth in Colorado because Colorado’s got a core group of people that want to bet on sports,” Avello said. 

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.