In-Depth: Colorado: A Proving Ground for Online Sportsbooks

Low taxes, low fees, and early engagement with stakeholders help make Colorado an ideal place for European operators to start building their brands in the US.
Colorado, a Proving Ground for Online Sportsbooks
October 12, 2022

More than half of the 24 sites for online sports betting in Colorado launched first or second in that state before any others — a testament to the Centennial State’s emergence as a proving ground for sports betting platforms, especially among European operators looking to make a splash in the US.

The state has become a virtual smorgasbord for sports betting, with large operators like DraftKings and FanDuel going head-to-head with smaller outfits like Bet Monarch and Maverick, skins unique to Colorado.

Regulators attribute their booming market to outreach efforts six months before online sports betting began in May 2020. The state’s long list of land-based casinos — and a casino industry that’s been around since 1991 — also deserves part of the credit for providing operators a chance to launch their sportsbooks in a competitive market from the get-go.

“With the opportunity to partner with existing casinos, the market space in Colorado opened up numerous opportunities for many operators to open a sportsbook in a fiercely competitive market that introduced this new form of entertainment to new consumers,” the Colorado Division of Gaming (CDOG) told US Gaming Review in an exclusive.

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For Many Brands New to the US, Colorado Was An Early Stop

Of the 24 online sportsbooks in Colorado, one-third of them, eight sportsbooks in total — Bally Bet, Betfred Sports, Betsafe, Betway, MaximBet, PlayUp, SI Sportsbook, and SBK — launched in Colorado first.

An additional six sportsbooks, one-quarter of the total — bet365, Circa Sports, Elite Sportsbook, SuperBook, Tipico, and WynnBET — had Colorado as their second state for launch. Of those six, three (bet365, Tipico, WynnBET) elected to launch in New Jersey first, while two (Circa, SuperBook) debuted in Nevada, and one (Elite) picked Iowa for its first launch.

Online Sportsbooks That Launched in Colorado First

Operator Launched Land-Based Casino Partner
Bally Bet May 2021 Bally’s Black Hawk East Casino
Betfred Sports September 2020 Saratoga Casino Black Hawk
Betsafe March 2022 Dostal Alley
Betway June 2021 Famous Bonanza Casino Corporation
MaximBet September 2021 Johnny Nolon’s Casino
PlayUp March 2021 Bull Durham Saloon & Casino
SI Sportsbook September 2021 Colorado Grande Hotel and Casino
SBK June 2020 Sir William’s Casino

Most of the 14 sportsbooks above are owned by European operators, who made Colorado their first or second stop in the US to build a presence on this side of the Atlantic.

Bet365, Betfred, Betway, and SBK are owned by companies based in the UK. Betsafe is from Sweden, PlayUp is an Australian import, and Tipico is a German brand. The parent company of the US-based MaximBet is headquartered in Malta, while one of the two companies behind SI Sportsbook is from the UK.

Online Sportsbooks That Launched in Colorado Second

Operator Launched in CO Launched First In Land-Based Casino Partner
bet365 September 2022 NJ (August 2019) Century Casinos
Circa Sports July 2020 NV (June 2019) Century Casino Cripple Creek
Elite Sportsbook August 2020 IA (August 2019) Red Dolly Casino
SuperBook January 2021 NV (January 2016) The Lodge Casino at Black Hawk
Tipico August 2021 NJ (December 2020) Century Casino Tollgate
WynnBET December 2020 NJ (July 2020) Bronco Billy’s Casino

That leaves only Bally Bet, Circa, Elite, SuperBook, and WynnBET as the domestic operators that came to Colorado early. Four US-based brands — Barstool, BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars, and DraftKings — launched in at least two other states before coming to Colorado.

CDOG said three operators — Betsafe, PointsBet, and Tipico — have set up their North American headquarters in the state.

“Colorado is a beautiful place to work and live,” CDOG Director Dan Hartman told US Gaming Review. “When you combine that fact with our fair and robust regulatory program and how many Coloradans have embraced sports wagering, it has truly become a market where operators want to establish themselves and reap the economic benefits this state has to offer them.”

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Early Engagement With Stakeholders Credited For Success

Colorado’s success is likely due partly to its relatively low tax rate — 10% for retail and online sports betting. Gaming license fees through the CDOG are also cheaper than in other states. For example, for operators and retailers, original two-year licenses (and renewals) range from $3,700 to $8,000.

But the CDOG said its holistic approach to sports betting was also a contributing factor. “What helped establish Colorado as a viable market for operators can partially be attributed to the relationship the Division developed early on with industry stakeholders in establishing the rules and regulations,” the regulator said.

“In December 2019, Division staff engaged industry stakeholders in productive conversations — holding rule-making sessions with industry operators, regulators, sports teams, and problem gaming representatives to develop sound and fair rules for the new sports betting landscape in Colorado.

“The Division worked extensively with stakeholders, holding meetings with over 70 various industry representatives, ensuring that the regulations in Colorado incorporated the gaming and sports betting industry’s needs and provided an excellent and robust entertainment option for the Colorado bettor.”

Learn all about the Best US Sportsbooks in our complete guide!

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