Denver Businesses Looking to Hit the Jackpot on Legal Sports Betting

Denver businesses are looking to hit the jackpot on sports betting.
Denver businesses are looking to hit the jackpot on sports betting. Photo-illustration by Jay Vollmar; photos from Getty Images
While monitoring developments in the push to legalize sports betting in Colorado, Chris Fuselier began to envision his bar, Blake Street Tavern, as a betting location. It would be perfect: Sports fans could drink, eat and throw down money in person for the various games they watch on the bar's 65 TVs.

The final language of the successful ballot initiative may have killed his initial dream, since physical betting locations will be limited to casinos in Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk. But not all bets are off for Fuselier.

Bettors will soon be able register for mobile betting apps online as well as in person at licensed gaming casinos. The state's Division of Gaming will work in the coming weeks to further clarify details of signing up for the apps. Meanwhile, sports betting-industry stakeholders are hoping the new law will open the doors for mobile-betting apps to establish partnerships with bars and physically market their products to patrons.

"I think it’s going to revitalize a lot of sports bars," says Fuselier.

The bar owner says younger people are more content to stay home and watch Netflix or sports on their computers than watch games at bars. But legal sports betting will bring young sports fans to bars in Denver in droves, he says, and partnerships with apps could bring in even more business.

"We will definitely be promoting sign-ups and encouraging our customers," Fuselier says about partnering with an app, potentially allowing it to run a booth at Blake Street Tavern to sign up patrons.

People familiar with the sports-betting world frequently talk about the camaraderie and excitement that develops when people gather to bet on the same game. "It’s something that you can really enjoy for a minimal amount of money and be entertained for three hours," says Jay Kornegay, a Colorado native and vice president of race and sports book operations at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.

Though he declined to get into specifics, Kornegay says his company is doing its due diligence on how to partner with bars here. "We’re looking at a few different avenues of how to partner up with many different operators in Colorado," says Kornegay, who is good friends with Fuselier.

Other nightlife venues are also looking to corner the sports-betting entertainment market.

LoDo nightclub BETA 2.0 is expanding its entertainment offerings and will project games onto a 1,300-square-foot screen, which will stream betting odds in real time.

"We differentiate ourselves from sports bars with more comfortable seating, added technology and sports-betting entertainment. This will be the destination for every sports bettor in the area," Ben Cary, a sports-betting expert who is partnering with BETA 2.0 on the initiative, tells Westword in an email. Cary notes that BETA will host gaming tournaments and stream e-sports live.

Even companies that offer betting advice are trying to get their slice of the pie. A new website called Denver Sports Betting has been publishing betting previews for Nuggets and Broncos games and is working on a podcast and video content.

"We want the Denver Sports Betting brand to be the one-stop shop for all sports-betting things Colorado," says Aniello Piro, a Denver sports journalist who signed on with the company in August, even before the sports-betting ballot initiative passed. "We definitely have a little bit of a head start."

Update: Due to misinformation provided to Westword by the Department of Revenue, this story originally misstated the way the law was written. We've clarified that bettors will be able to register for mobile apps online as well as at licensed casinos.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.