For weeks, it's looked like the May 1 start date for legal sports wagering in Colorado had become a very bad bet.
"If I were doing it, I wouldn’t launch sports betting into the void of sports," says Dustin Gouker, a sports-betting analyst for PlayUSA.com. "I just don’t know how compelling that is. It seems anti-climactic."
Gouker's right: The launch of sports betting in Colorado will certainly be anti-climactic compared to what advocates originally anticipated, since all the major sports leagues that would normally have full schedules are currently on hiatus. And without those games, it seemed as though there wouldn't be anything fun to bet on for months.
But Colorado regulators are still moving ahead with the May 1 kickoff, as stipulated by the November 2019 ballot initiative that legalized sports betting in this state. And even though the Kentucky Derby and a number of other high-profile sports matches won't be taking place on that first weekend of legal sports betting, there are a few glimmers of hope for Colorado's sports-gambling fans.
With so many people inside, esports, or professional video-game playing, has pivoted from in-person competition to remote tournaments. The sports-betting rules in Colorado allow for wagering on sanctioned video-game tournaments. Betting on which gamer will have the best kill-to-death ratio in Call of Duty won't be quite as riveting as betting on the Nuggets or Avalanche, but it' something.
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Meanwhile, Dana White, the president of the UFC, recently announced that he's in the process of securing a "private island" where he can host fights every week. No, this is not a plot for Mortal Kombat; the location will allow non-U.S. fighters to get around American travel restrictions. Combat sports like mixed martial arts and boxing are already some of the biggest draws for sports bettors, so UFC matches should be a hit.
Additionally, the MLB is considering moving all teams to the greater Phoenix area to play each other in empty stadiums; the earliest possible season start day would be in May.
"If it's safe, I'm in," Nolan Arenado, the star third baseman for the Colorado Rockies, told the Denver Post.
So Coloradans could potentially have two major sports leagues — and one Colorado team — to bet on in May. They won't even have to leave their homes, since sports betting on mobile applications will be allowed.
And sports fans should be able to bet on competitions that have been postponed, like the Masters Tournament, which was set to take place this weekend.
"There are definitely sports books that have those listed now," says Gouker. "Anything that’s an event that has been rescheduled, they’ll probably take action on at this point." So you can throw down $100 on Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler to win the Masters, and won't have to think about the bet again until November, when the rescheduled Masters takes place.
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There could be more for golf fans to bet on, too. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson could organize a second round of their one-on-one rivalry, which began on pay-per-view TV back in November 2018. "Because it’s two professionals and it’s a controlled environment, I think regulators would allow betting on that," Gouker says.
Other sports that Coloradans can bet on could include table tennis, sumo wrestling, minor-league women's golf, handball, volleyball, and baseball and basketball in Asian nations. Obscure soccer leagues in countries such as Belarus and Nicaragua also remain in competition.
Even though initial sports-betting numbers in Colorado will be abysmal, any revenue would be helpful for Colorado's casino industry, which is slated to take a cut of the mobile betting. Casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek were closed by Governor Jared Polis last month.
And the Colorado Water Plan is also thirsty for some money. Under the terms of the ballot initiative approved by voters, the majority of tax revenue collected from sports betting in Colorado will go to funding efforts to realize that action plan.