Tracing the Evolution of Sports Betting in Colorado

Sports betting is the activity of predicting sports results and placing a wager on the outcome. For generations, Colorado residents have had a passion for sports, and sports betting has been a popular pastime for many. Though initially limited to underground and illicit channels, the legalization of sports betting in Colorado has brought this activity to the forefront, allowing people to participate in a regulated and secure environment.

Importance of sports betting in Colorado

Sports betting holds great importance in Colorado’s economy and cultural landscape. The legalization and regulation of sports betting have created numerous jobs, generated tax revenue, and fostered fan engagement. As a result, Centennial State has further solidified its position as a sports-loving community, drawing sports enthusiasts and bettors.

The Early History of Sports Betting in Colorado

Pre-legalization Era

Before the legalization of Colorado sports betting, an underground betting scene thrived. People would place bets with bookies or friends, often in secret, as it was considered an illegal activity. This illicit market created an unregulated environment, with potential risks for bettors and no tax revenue for the state. Despite the associated dangers, the underground betting scene in Colorado remained popular, fueling the eventual push for legalization.

Key figures and events

While the underground betting scene in Colorado was mostly driven by local bookmakers, some noteworthy events and key figures stand out. For instance, the 1919 Black Sox Scandal exposed the vulnerability of sports to corruption, sparking a nationwide debate on the integrity of sports and the need for regulation. Additionally, various high-profile individuals, such as Al Capone and Arnold Rothstein, were known to have ties to illegal sports betting activities, demonstrating the extent of the underground betting market during the pre-legalization era.

Colorado’s Early Gambling Laws

Before the advent of modern gambling laws, Colorado’s early gambling regulations were primarily focused on curtailing illegal gambling activities. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Colorado, like many other states, enacted anti-gambling laws aimed at suppressing various forms of gambling, including sports betting. These early laws, however, were not always effective in curbing the underground betting scene, as a lack of enforcement and resources allowed illegal gambling activities to persist.

In response to the rise in illegal gambling, Colorado lawmakers took steps to refine and strengthen the state’s gambling laws throughout the 20th century. For example, the state enacted legislation in the 1940s to establish a regulatory body, the Colorado Racing Commission, which was responsible for overseeing horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering within the state. This was one of the first significant steps towards creating a legal and regulated gambling environment in Colorado.

These early gambling laws and regulatory bodies laid the groundwork for future advancements in the state’s gambling industry. As public opinion began to shift, and the potential economic benefits of legal gambling became more evident, Colorado gradually expanded its gambling offerings, culminating in the passage of the Colorado Limited Gaming Act of 1991 and, eventually, the legalization of sports betting through Proposition DD in 2019.

The Road to Legalization

Changing Attitudes Toward Sports Betting

Over time, the perception of sports betting in Colorado began to shift, with many residents recognizing the potential economic benefits and the need for regulation to ensure integrity and fairness. The success of legal gambling in other states, coupled with increasing public support, led to discussions around legalizing sports betting in Colorado. This change in attitude marked the beginning of a movement towards a regulated sports betting market.

Key Legislation Milestones

  • Colorado Limited Gaming Act of 1991
    The Colorado Limited Gaming Act of 1991 marked the first significant step towards legalized gambling in the state, allowing casino gambling in specific regions, namely Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek. Although this legislation did not include sports betting, it set the stage for future discussions and demonstrated Colorado’s openness to regulated gambling activities.
  • The expansion of gambling in Colorado
    As the years progressed, Colorado continued to expand its gambling offerings, including the introduction of the Colorado Lottery and the growth of tribal casinos on Native American reservations. These developments helped create a more comprehensive gambling industry in the state, paving the way for sports betting to be considered as a viable option for future expansion.
  • The rise of daily fantasy sports
    The emergence of daily fantasy sports (DFS) in the early 2000s played a pivotal role in the sports betting conversation. DFS platforms, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, gained popularity among sports enthusiasts in Colorado and across the nation. While DFS was not considered traditional sports betting, its widespread acceptance demonstrated the public’s appetite for legalized sports wagering activities.

The Legalization of Sports Betting in Colorado

Proposition DD (2019)

Proposition DD was a pivotal moment in the history of sports betting in Colorado. The journey to Proposition DD was driven by several factors, including the shifting attitudes toward sports betting, the desire for additional tax revenue, and the need to counteract the growing underground betting market. The foundation was laid by the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in Murphy v. NCAA, which struck down the federal ban on sports betting and paved the way for individual states to legalize and regulate sports wagering. This decision prompted Colorado lawmakers to draft a legislative proposal that would bring regulated sports betting to the state, culminating in Proposition DD.

Key stakeholders and proponents

Several key stakeholders and proponents played vital roles in promoting and advocating for the passage of Proposition DD. Colorado lawmakers, such as Representatives Alec Garnett and Patrick Neville and Senator Kerry Donovan, were instrumental in drafting the legislation and garnering bipartisan support. The Colorado gaming industry, including casinos and sportsbook operators, also backed the measure, recognizing the potential economic benefits and the opportunity to legitimize the industry. 

Additionally, professional Colorado sports teams and leagues, such as the Denver Broncos and Major League Baseball, supported the legalization effort, anticipating increased fan engagement and new partnership opportunities.

Public response and debate

The public response to Proposition DD was mixed, with a lively debate taking place among Colorado residents. Advocates for the measure argued that legalizing sports betting would generate significant tax revenue, create jobs, and bring an underground industry into the light, where it could be regulated and monitored. They also pointed to the success of legalized sports betting in other states as an example of the potential benefits for Colorado.

Opponents, on the other hand, raised concerns about the potential for increased gambling addiction and the potential negative social impacts associated with widespread sports betting. Some also questioned whether the estimated tax revenue would be as substantial as proponents suggested.

Ultimately, after much debate and discussion, Proposition DD narrowly passed in the November 2019 general election, with 50.7% of Colorado voters in favor of the measure. This marked the beginning of a new era for sports betting in Centennial State, setting the stage for a thriving and regulated industry.

Implementation of Sports Betting

Licensing and regulation

Following the approval of Proposition DD, the Colorado Division of Gaming was tasked with establishing a licensing and regulatory framework for sports betting. In May 2020, the first legal sportsbooks opened their doors, offering bettors a safe, regulated environment in which to place wagers. Both retail and online sportsbooks in Colorado are required to obtain licenses and adhere to strict regulations, ensuring consumer protection and integrity within the industry.

Taxation and revenue distribution

Under the new legal framework, sports betting in Colorado is subject to taxation, with proceeds being used to fund various public initiatives. The tax revenue generated from sports betting primarily supports the Colorado Water Plan, which aims to address the state’s water-related challenges. Additional revenue is allocated to gambling addiction services, local government initiatives, and other state programs.

The Growth of the Sports Betting Industry

Major Players and Sportsbooks

The legalization of sports betting in Colorado has attracted numerous major players in the industry, resulting in a competitive market with various sportsbooks vying for the attention of bettors. Some of the most prominent sportsbooks operating in the state include DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, PointsBet, and others. 

Both retail sportsbooks, located at casinos, and online platforms have experienced significant growth, offering Colorado residents a wide range of options for placing wagers.

The Rise of Mobile and Online Sports Betting

The advent of mobile and online sports betting in Colorado has been a game-changer for the industry, as it has significantly amplified the accessibility and convenience of placing bets. Bettors no longer need to visit physical sportsbooks or betting shops to place their wagers; they can now do so from the comfort of their homes or on-the-go using their smartphones, tablets, or computers. This increased accessibility has attracted a larger audience to sports betting, including those who might not have engaged in the activity in the past, ultimately contributing to the industry’s rapid growth.

Another factor that has fueled the rise of mobile and online sports betting in Colorado is the innovative features and user experiences offered by various betting platforms. These platforms have developed cutting-edge technology, such as live in-game betting, personalized odds, and integrated social features, to enhance the overall betting experience for users. These advancements not only make betting more exciting and engaging for seasoned bettors but also appeal to new users looking for a unique and entertaining experience.

The rise of mobile and online sports betting has also allowed for a wider range of betting options to be offered to Colorado residents. Traditional sportsbooks may be limited in the variety of bets they can provide, but online platforms can accommodate an extensive range of sports, leagues, and betting markets. This increased variety has played a crucial role in attracting a more diverse group of bettors and encouraging them to explore different types of wagers, further amplifying the industry’s growth.

Partnerships With Professional Teams and Leagues

The sports betting industry in Colorado has formed numerous partnerships with Colorado professional sports teams and leagues, further enhancing the connection between sports and betting. These partnerships often comprise of sponsorship deals, marketing campaigns, and exclusive betting partnerships that benefit both the sportsbooks and the teams involved. Such collaborations help to increase fan engagement, drive more users to sports betting platforms, and contribute to the overall growth and success of the industry.

For example, the Denver Broncos have formed a partnership with BetMGM sportsbook. These collaborations aim to elevate fan engagement and promote responsible gambling while strengthening the ties between sports betting and Colorado’s beloved sports teams.

Economic and Social Impact 

Booming Economy and Job Creation

Colorado’s economy has experienced significant benefits since the legalization of sports betting, with increased revenue for casinos, racetracks, and other businesses. The state has seen a surge in economic activity, with some establishments reporting up to 30% increases in revenue. Furthermore, the sports betting industry has created hundreds of new jobs across various sectors, including bookmakers, customer service professionals, marketers, and data analysts. With higher wages and more job opportunities, the sports betting industry has become an attractive prospect for those looking to enter the field in Colorado.

Boost for Local Businesses and Tourism

Local businesses have reaped immense benefits from the rapidly growing sports betting industry in Colorado. Bars, restaurants, and sports apparel or memorabilia stores have experienced increased patronage and profits as more customers engage in sports betting activities. The surge in interest in sports betting has also attracted more visitors to Colorado, providing an additional boost to the local economy and businesses across the state.

Remarkable Growth Since Legalization

Since its legalization in 2019, the sports betting industry in Colorado has experienced remarkable growth. The Colorado Department of Revenue reported that over 1,000 jobs were created within the sector in 2020 alone. As the industry continues to expand, it’s expected that more jobs will be created, contributing to the state’s overall economic health.

The continuous expansion of mobile and online sports betting has had a direct impact on the economic benefits generated for the state of Colorado. As more residents and visitors engage in sports betting through these platforms, the state collects increased tax revenue that can be used to fund important projects in areas such as education and infrastructure. The surge in online and mobile sports betting activity has played a significant role in amplifying the positive economic impact of the sports betting industry in Colorado.

Addressing the Potential Negative Effects of Gambling

While the legalization of sports betting in Colorado has generated significant economic benefits, it’s essential to consider the potential negative effects of gambling on Coloradans. Problem gambling can lead to financial difficulties, mental health issues, relationship problems, and criminal behavior. Vulnerable populations, such as youths and those with limited access or low incomes, may be disproportionately affected by the potential risks associated with gambling.

To protect these populations and ensure a safe environment for all Coloradans, it’s crucial for individuals and policymakers alike to work together to promote responsible gambling and provide resources for those who may be struggling with gambling addiction. It will also be helpful to strengthen the current campaigns like introducing the Universal Self-Exclusion Option. This collaborative approach will help to maximize the benefits of the sports betting industry while minimizing its potential negative impacts on Colorado residents.

The Future of Sports Betting in Colorado

Emerging Trends and Technologies

As the sports betting industry continues to grow, emerging trends and technologies are expected to shape the future of sports betting in Colorado. Innovations such as virtual reality, and live in-play betting are poised to further enhance the betting experience and increase the range of betting options available to Colorado residents.

Aside from the mentioned betting options, online sportsbooks are now exploring more and more exotic betting markets. These include props and futures for every league. Winning method is also available on some sports like MMA.

Potential Regulatory Changes

As the industry evolves, regulatory changes may be necessary to adapt to new developments and ensure the continued success of sports betting in Colorado. Stakeholders will need to closely monitor the industry and engage in ongoing dialogue to address any challenges or opportunities that may arise.

The Role of Colorado in the National Sports Betting Landscape

With its successful implementation and regulation of sports betting, Colorado has become a model for other states considering the legalization of this popular pastime. As more states legalize sports betting, Colorado’s experience can serve as an example of the potential economic and social benefits that can be achieved through responsible legalization and regulation.


Recap of Key Developments

From its early history as an underground activity to its current status as a thriving, regulated industry, sports betting in Colorado has come a long way. The passage of Proposition DD, the establishment of a regulatory framework, and the entry of major Colorado sportsbooks have all contributed to the growth and success of sports betting in the state. Colorado residents now enjoy a diverse range of betting options, while the state benefits from increased tax revenue and economic activity.

The Lasting Legacy 

The successful legalization and regulation of sports betting in Colorado have not only transformed the local gambling landscape but have also set a precedent for other states to follow. 

As the industry continues to evolve, Colorado will undoubtedly remain at the forefront of sports betting innovation, bolstering its reputation as a sports-loving state and fostering a responsible, thriving market for residents and visitors alike. The lasting legacy of sports betting in Colorado will be one of economic growth, increased fan engagement, and a commitment to maintaining the integrity of both the betting industry and the world of sports.