Colorado takes more than $300m in legal sporting bets in January

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Colorado emerged as the sixth state in US history in January to take in more than $300m in legal sports bets in a single month. The record-setting start to 2021 offers a strong hint for what is to come this year for the state’s retail and online sportsbooks, which has the potential to take in more than $3bn in wagers this year, according to PlayColorado.

Colorado’s online and retail sportsbooks generated a record $326.9m in bets in January, according to data released this week by the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Division of Gaming. That was up 14.9% from $284.6m in December. In every month since Colorado launched sports betting in May 2020 the state has set a fresh handle record.

Gross gaming revenue, which has not grown quite as consistently, set a fresh record in January. Sportsbooks won $22.7m, up from $17.2m in December and topping the previous record of $18.4m set in November. January’s gross gaming revenue yielded $11.7m in net sports betting proceeds, up from $5.7m in November. That produced $1.2m in state taxes in December.

Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayColorado.com, said: “What’s really stuck out is just how relentless Colorado’s growth has been. Every month we get new data. Every month sportsbooks set a new state record. There has been no letup regardless of what has happened with sports schedules during this pandemic. Growth is the rule in just about every legal jurisdiction, but none have had such a long, consistent upward trajectory.”

The opening month of 2021, in addition to the $31.2m handle sportsbooks generated on the Super Bowl, could be the beginning of a year that could bring in $3bn in wagering, $200m in gross gaming revenue, and more than $6m in state tax revenue, according to PlayColorado projections.

“With a tax rate on sports betting that is lower than in most legal states, Colorado is counting on market growth to get to a point where it is a reliable revenue generator for the state,” said Ian St Clair, analyst for PlayColorado.com. “That growth is coming more quickly than was projected last May, when we didn’t even know when major sports would return.”

Currently the sixth-largest market in terms of handle – behind No 5 Indiana, which generated $348.2m in January – no state has evolved quite like Colorado. For one, an abundance of home-grown tech talent has made the state appealing to operators such as PointsBet, which has set up its North American headquarters in downtown Denver. But more noticeably, Colorado’s interests have set the market apart.

Like any legal jurisdiction, the NFL playoffs drew major interest in January, generating $75m in bets on pro football. But the NBA, which enjoyed its first full month of the 2020-21 season, fueled $88.4m on pro basketball. And college basketball generated another $39.9m.

And continued interest in sports outside the mainstream, most notably table tennis, has made Colorado unique among US markets. With $11.8m in January bets, table tennis has now generated $78.3m in bets since May 1.

“To put the popularity of table tennis into perspective, it accounts for a similar percentage of Colorado’s handle as hockey does in most other states,” Welman said. “In no other state is there a relatively obscure sport that commands so much attention. Amazingly, it continues to be an important piece to the success of the state’s industry, and there is no sense yet that interest is waning.”

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