Sky Ute Casino’s GM On Launching a Colorado Sportsbook with No Sports

At the beginning of June, Sky Ute SportsBook became Colorado’s eighth licensed sportsbook. However, it also become the first tribal sportsbook to offer a sportsbook across an entire state. Since Sky Ute SportsBook isn’t limited to the Southern Ute reservation, it has access to Colorado’s 5.7 million residents and 85.2 million visitors. There are a lot of sports fans in those masses of people, and Sky Ute SportsBook has the chance to find those fans within that massive pool of people.

However, COVID-19 has marred Sky Ute SportBook’s launch and changed the business environment for sportsbooks across the country. We wanted to know how Sky Ute SportsBook managed the pandemic’s challenges during its launch and development. We caught up with Sky Ute Casino’s general manager to see what he had to say about Sky Ute SportsBook’s Colorado launch.

Sky Ute Casino Has Been Planning This For A While

Sportsbooks have been flooding Colorado since May 2020, but many of those sportsbooks have been investing in sports betting for far longer. In an interview with Colorado Sharp, Sky Ute Casino General Manager, Travis Garlick, let us in on how Sky Ute SportsBook developed in Colorado.

“I want to say almost two years ago, we first started hearing about Proposition DD and the ability to allow sports betting in the state of Colorado,” Travis Garlick said. “And one of the first steps that we did is we actually converted some space into a sports lounge.”

49 Lounge is Sky Ute Casino’s sports lounge, complete with a bar, grill, and a wall of TV’s so no patron could miss a game they bet on. Opening a retail sportsbook wasn’t an option in 2018, because sports betting wasn’t legal nationwide. However, devoting an entire space to sports viewing set Sky Ute Casino up for promoting sports betting. It’s a convenient place to see whether a $100 bet on the Broncos pays off.

Sky Ute SportsBook Needed Partners To Pull Off An App

After the Supreme Court decided states could legalize sports betting, Colorado passed Proposition DD at the end of 2019. Once Colorado gave sports betting the go-ahead, Sky Ute Casino began its search for partners.

“We just kind of waited idly by until Proposition DD went to the Colorado voters,” Garlick said. “And when it went through, we went ahead and started looking for vendors to enter into agreements with and filled out both the brick and mortar sportsbook, but also [started] doing the due diligence with the mobile app.”

They settled on US Bookmaking, a Vegas firm that helps new sportsbooks launch. It does everything from staff training to app design to retail sportsbook design. “We work closely with US Bookmaking for the risk management portions of things and some other stuff, so we really value our relationship with them,” said Garlick.

How Did Sky Ute SportsBook’s Launch Go?

By the time Sky Ute SportsBook launched, the country was reeling from a pandemic. Sports were cancelled and some commentators doubted whether sports would return in Fall 2020. How did Sky Ute SportsBook launch with few sports available to bet on?

“There’s not a whole lot of action being placed at this point,” said Garlick. “We’re just trying to work through it and establish ourselves in the market and taking it one step at a time.” However, launching a sportsbook during a tumultuous sports season was far from a lost cause. “As soon as we did the press release and opened up the app on both Google Play and Apple Store, we instantly started experiencing downloads and start seeing some limited action,” Garlick said.

NASCAR and golf are beginning to resume, which has likely led to Sky Ute SportsBook’s daily bets and signups. It’s also garnered positive user feedback for the app. “It’s been really very easy for the consumer and we really haven’t had any negative feedback, which is amazing and which we’re very very pleased with.” That’s a bold claim that should be taken with a grain of salt. As bettors return to sportsbooks, Sky Ute SportsBook will find out where its weak points are.

Where Does Sky Ute SportsBook Hope To Go?

Now that Sky Ute Sportsbook is live, what are its goals as it develops into a competitive sportsbook? They’re straightforward. “With [US Bookmaking’s] expertise, one of our goals is to be able to bring the best odds and the best moneylines to market within Colorado,” said Garlick.

It’s easy to compare lines to see how close Sky Ute SportsBook is to achieving those goals. Sky Ute SportsBook’s line selection is currently sparse, but here are the lines on the Crystal Palace/Burnley match:

 BurnleyCrystal PalaceDraw
Sky Ute Sportsbook+290+115+200
Fox Bet+290+115+200

Sky Ute SportsBook is tied for the best odds on a Crystal Palace win, but it sacrifices odds on a Burnley win and a draw to make that happen. It has a similar strategy on its boxing match odds for the Wilder/Fury fight in October:

 Deontay WilderTyson Fury
Sky Ute Sportsbook+220-260

*BetMGM also offers a line on a draw with +2500 odds.

Again, Sky Ute Sportsbook is tied with BetMonarch for the best odds on a Fury win. To get good odds on Fury, Sky Ute SportsBook and BetMonarch have worse odds on Wilder than the other two sportsbooks. It’s a trade-off that traditional sportsbooks must make.

Sky Ute SportsBook seems like it’s made good progress toward its goal of offering the best moneylines in Colorado. However, there’s one sportsbook they must watch for. A competing sportsbook, SBK, gets its odds come from a betting exchange in the U.K. owned by the same company. That means SBK doesn’t build in a house advantage, and its lines are more competitive across the board. Sky Ute SportsBook–and all of Colorado’s traditional sportsbooks–will likely face the greatest challenge from SBK.

How Is Sky Ute SportsBook Managing COVID-19 Now That It’s Live?

Sky Ute SportsBook has a lot to be optimistic about. It says its early feedback has been good and it’s made progress toward offering the strongest moneyline bets in Colorado. But there’s still a pandemic raging in the United States that may delay sports past Fall 2020.

“We’re literally taking it almost day by day,” said Garlick. “We meet regularly with our partners like US Bookmaking and just kind of navigating these troubled waters. There’s nothing to reference it from. There’s never been any situation like this.”

Sky Ute SportsBook–and all of Colorado’s sportsbooks–have to play everything by ear. If the coronavirus gets out of control in Colorado, Governor Polis could order the casinos to close again. It’s hard to predict whether that will happen, because the pandemic is so volatile. For all of Sky Ute SportsBook’s promise, a coronavirus resurgence in Colorado could compound the challenges of growing in this environment.

What Colorado Bettors Need To Know About Sky Ute SportsBook

Sky Ute SportsBook plans to specialize in moneyline bets, and it believes it fits seamlessly into the Sky Ute portfolio. “If you do any research on the Southern Ute Tribe or Sky Ute Casino,” said Garlick, “The one thing that they concentrate on is quality product. That’s what we intend to bring to sports fans and consumers in the Colorado market.”

If bettors want to see whether Sky Ute SportsBook lives up to the hype, they can download it. And if patrons feel safe enough–and take proper precautions–they can check out the 49 Lounge to watch anything they bet on. As long as the casinos remain open, of course.

About the Author

Christopher Gerlacher

Christopher Gerlacher is a freelance writer tucked into the foothills in Colorado Springs. He works as a content writer, a professional resume writer, and authors search engine optimized professional articles in multiple industries.