At three months old, Colorado’s sports betting market already includes ten sportsbooks. In fact, Colorado is such a promising sports betting market that some international companies want to make their American debuts here. PlayUp is one such company, anticipating a September launch with one more state launch to come later this year.
We asked Dr. Laila Mintas, CEO of PlayUp U.S., about what she saw in Colorado’s market that set it apart from other states and what bettors can expect from PlayUp’s launch. We also discussed PlayUp’s pandemic strategy, Colorado’s current betting trends, and PlayUp’s next projects.
How Did Colorado Become PlayUp’s Entry Point?
Colorado will be the first state that PlayUp launches in. PlayUp is far from the only sportsbook to make its American debut in Colorado. What is it about Colorado that makes it such an attractive market for sportsbooks?
“Colorado is a very interesting market for many different reasons,” Dr. Mintas said. “One reason is you have a lot of sports fans. You have four major sports venues. It’s supposed to become a $300 million market, which is a lot. You have almost six million people in terms of population that live there. So, it’s a great market.”
Those numbers add up to a large and growing market that attracts sportsbooks. However, Colorado’s regulatory environment is noteworthy, too. “The regulations are kind of common-sense regulations,” said Dr. Mintas. “So, the tax is not too high, and it’s pretty liberal in terms of what you can offer.”
PlayUp won’t come to just any state, either. “We look into every state that offers online [sports betting],” says Dr. Mintas. “And we basically have a cherry-picking strategy, if you will. So, we don’t go just in a state to be there. We want to go into a state that makes sense.”
Which other states make sense for PlayUp? “You will see us going live in at least in one more market this year,” Dr. Mintas said. Bettors across the country will have to watch carefully and see whether their state’s environment is competitive enough for this new international entrant.
What Sets PlayUp Apart From The Competition?
There are a few things that Dr. Mintas believes sets PlayUp apart from its soon-to-be competitors. “One of them is certainly that we own our in-house technology and platform,” she said. “That is very important because it enables the operator to come up with different products and differentiating products that are not in the market yet. If you don’t own your platform as a sportsbook, you basically have to go with those products that your platform partner is providing.”
That may be why PlayUp has so many different products. In addition to its sportsbook, it has dedicated sites for:
- Horse Racing
- Fantasy Esports
- Fantasy Horse Racing
These products are not active in Colorado. Colorado is only getting a sportsbook at first. However, Colorado could see similarly specialized products in the months following PlayUp’s launch. In fact, Dr. Mintas said as much:
“Further down the road, we want to introduce products that are new to the market that are innovative, that kind of differentiate from what you see so far. But it’s too early to go into detail. That’s all kind of top-secret at [the] moment.”
The other major differentiator Dr. Mintas envisions for PlayUp is its odds. “If you compare, for example, with Australia where we’re live, of course, up and running…we also beat bigger players in terms of the odds that we are providing. When I say bigger players, I mean probably more established players in the market.”
These more established players doubtlessly include sportsbooks like DraftKings and PointsBet, which both operate in Australia. We compared PlayUp’s odds from its Australian sportsbook website to Colorado’s sportsbook odds. Here’s how they matched up in the WNBA match between The Storm and The Dream:
|Seattle Storm||Atlanta Dream|
|Sky Ute Sportsbook||-620||+460|
PlayUp had slightly better odds than DraftKings on both sides of the bet. It also matched FanDuel’s odds on the underdog. It also beat Fox Bet’s odds on The Storm, but Fox Bet sacrificed its Storm odds to offer the best odds on The Dream.
PlayUp is competitive among several recognizable players, but BetMGM and Fox Bet came up with the best odds on this game. However, if this is any indication of how PlayUp will perform in Colorado, it could make itself a sportsbook that must be checked by bettors who diligently compare odds.
It’ll have to watch out for Colorado’s smaller players, though. The smaller startups know they have to be more agile than players like DraftKings and FanDuel. They’ll probably be bigger threats in the marketplace than the larger players.
What Launching During The Pandemic Is Like
Every company is handling the pandemic’s challenges in their own way. However, PlayUp found a way to adapt to the unprecedented challenge. “Since we are an online-only brand, we are not so strongly affected as most of the other sportsbooks that have retail businesses as well,” says Dr. Mintas.
However, PlayUp has more than luck on its side. It’s also driven revenue with new product releases in Australia. “We’re having differentiating products in Australia and other markets that we launched during COVID and that’s basically led to increased revenue,” says Dr. Mintas.
“So for example in Australia, we launched esports betting when COVID hit and even fantasy on esports. We have horse racing, we have fantasy on horse racing, so those are great products and strong revenue drivers in terms of the pandemic. And that’s basically what’s been supporting the company and helped us [grow].”
And what’s the plan if the NFL doesn’t return on time and sports have to cancel again?
“We basically hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” says Dr. Mintas. She was mum about the details of PlayUp’s Plan B. But based on PlayUp’s pandemic performance, PlayUp is likely prepared to navigate a doomsday scenario for American sports.
How PlayUp’s Oddsmakers Are Handling The Pandemic
There’s no sportsbook without oddsmakers, and PlayUp’s in-house Risk and Trading team has to navigate around player opt-outs. Dr. Mintas noted one challenge that her oddsmakers–and all sportsbooks–are dealing with right now.
“I think there’s probably some caution around [prop bets] for every sportsbook at the moment. Prop bets are also not too popular yet in the U.S. But I think that will be coming soon and so far, we see proposition bets in the U.S.–not really outside [of] the SuperBowl–but that’s actually the biggest event where operators offer types like that.”
With the coronavirus spreading through MLB, sportsbooks are concerned about how the NFL will fare. If the SuperBowl doesn’t happen this year, it’ll be a slow year for prop bets. But it’ll be interesting to see how props hold up throughout the rest of the pandemic.
Surprise Pandemic Sport Hits
Colorado’s sports betting industry has already put up some impressive numbers. However, Coloradan bettors put their money into a few surprising bets. About a quarter of Colorado’s sports betting revenue came from table tennis bets in May and June. That’s a surprising breakout star for Colorado’s new sports betting market. Dr. Mintas has a guess about how that happened:
“I have worked in the sports betting industry since 2006 and spent a lot of my time outside Sportradar heading up US operations, so I think my experience so far–independently from PlayUp–is that sometimes even the time zone on where games take place and sports takes place decides for bettors to take that bet.”
That’s right. If bettors want to bet, many of them will apparently pick the next available event. “So, I don’t know if table tennis was just in a better time zone than German soccer for example,” she said. “But most of the time, even things like time zone and what’s just available in that moment decides what people bet on. Just my speculation.”
What’s Next For PlayUp?
There are several milestones that PlayUp is preparing to reach in Colorado and abroad. “In Colorado, we are working on launching in September,” Dr. Mintas says. “And then we want to expand over time in terms of our product offerings.”
However, sports betting goes beyond profits for Dr. Mintas. “I always saw sports betting also as a way to engage fans. So we want to make sure our products [are] offering something that sports fans like to do. So it’s really both engaging sports fans and [offering] them a legal channel to do sports betting. And that’s why we’re on the market.”