Even though legalized sports betting is spreading like wildfire across the country, with 47 states either having passed new laws or considering new laws, the industry in the broader United States is still in its very early stages. Millions of Americans now live in places that allow them to place sports wagers. But most of the millions are new bettors, including the 5.7 million residents of Colorado.
On this page, we aim to point those new bettors in the right direction when it comes to finding a sportsbook and placing a sports bet. And ideally, those new sports bettors will turn into new and successful sports bettors.
There is a lot of information to parse. What is and isn’t available to bet? Where do you go if you want to find the best retail sportsbooks that also offer the best promotions and rewards? How do you know what sportsbooks best fit you?
Sports betting also has its own language, and we want to make sure the new Colorado bettor enters the fray fully armed with the right terminology. And even though legal sports betting is new, sports betting has been around for years. So what has changed with the new laws, and is the sports bettor better off by playing at one of the state’s new sportsbooks?
Most of us aren’t lawyers, so the legalese can be confusing. Most of us aren’t accountants, so the financials of the industry can be hard to understand. And most of us aren’t seasoned or professional sports gamblers, so the expectations of success are different.
But hopefully, after you’re done here, all of the above will be just a bit less mysterious.
Sportsbooks currently operating in Colorado
Sports betting in Colorado is still in its infancy, so the list of sportsbooks that have been granted licenses and gone on to open operations will continue to expand. And with a possible 33 retail sportsbooks (28 of which have already applied for licensing), that final list will be quite long.
The following national sportsbook providers have been confirmed as opening online and mobile operations in Colorado:
- Twin River
- William Hill
- Wynn Resorts
What casinos in Colorado have sportsbooks?
Casino gambling has been legal in Colorado since 1991 and is limited to locations in the three mountain towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. In those three towns, there are 33 casinos currently in operation, and almost all of them are expected to eventually offer some sort of legal sports betting.
The following casinos already have deals in place with partner sportsbook operators and are confirmed to offer sports betting at their retail locations.
- Golden Gates Casino, Black Hawk
- Golden Gulch Casino, Black Hawk
- Isle Casino Hotel, Black Hawk
- Lady Luck Casino and Hotel, Black Hawk
- Golden Mardi Gras Casino, Black Hawk
- Saratoga Casino, Black Hawk
- Century Casino and Hotel, Central City
- Bronco Billy’s Casino, Cripple Creek
- Double Eagle Hotel and Casino, Cripple Creek
Colorado officials say that 28 of the state’s casinos have applied for licenses, so this list of land-based sportsbooks will increase over the coming months.
What to look for in a Colorado sportsbook
With so many options available, how are you supposed to know what sportsbook is right for you? There are many different criteria from which both a seasoned bettor and a new sports gambler can choose.
The days of truly successful point spread shopping are over. Everything is online these days, so when news breaks that shifts a point spread in Las Vegas, it doesn’t take long for that same change to take place in Colorado. But that doesn’t mean that every point spread is the same.
It is still possible to find point spread differences of one to two points and different odds for moneylines. Depending on which side of the bet you want to play, a favorable point spread is an excellent reason to choose a sportsbook. Of course, what may be favorable one week might be less favorable the next, but if you’re looking for good one-off sportsbooks, playing the line is advised.
For a more long-term sportsbook relationship, bonuses, promotions and the potential for a rewards program are things to keep an eye on. If signing up for sportsbook A results in $500 worth of free bets, while sportsbook B only offers $200 in free bets, the decision is easy.
The same holds true for deposit matches. Never leave free money unclaimed and on the table.
Also, be sure to read through the many competing seasonal promotions that the different sportsbooks offer. If you love to play the NFL, a sportsbook that tends to offer betting deals involving the NBA probably isn’t for you. Shop around and find the kinds of promotions that will work well with the types of bets and sports you like to play.
Casino rewards and loyalty programs are an industry standard these days. But not all of those casinos have attached their loyalty programs to their sports betting offerings. So if you can find one that does, it’s worth exploring.
If you are going to bet on sports anyway, and placing those bets with a specific operator will eventually lead to free bets, free hotel rooms, travel rewards, and other gifts and goodies, that is the sportsbook for you.
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying, not all sportsbook sites and apps are created equal. Some are easy to navigate, quick to respond and enjoyable to use. With others, you may have to hunt for the sports you want, and the interface is slow, and the financial transactions are only completed after a delay.
All sports betting apps are free to download. Put several on your phone, then try them out. Navigate your way through the many different sports and wager types and see if an app is right for you. Then, and only then, should you register an account and make your first deposit.
What licenses does Colorado offer for sports betting?
There are three levels of sports betting licenses available to companies that wish to operate a sportsbook in Colorado:
Master license: These licenses are available to existing Colorado casinos and are required to operate a retail sportsbook.
Sports betting operator: Companies that partner with existing Colorado casinos to operate their retail sportsbooks must acquire this type of license.
Internet sports betting operator: Each partner company that has teamed with an existing casino must acquire this type of license if it plans to also offer online and mobile sports betting.
Sports betting is big business, and above and beyond the casinos that host the sportsbooks and the companies that operate them, there are many other people and organizations that provide third party support. There are two other levels of licensure that are available to those third parties.
Major vendor: Major vendors include hardware and software manufacturers and suppliers, accounting and financial operators and managers, people who provide information used by the sportsbook, and anyone who receives payment as a percentage of sports gaming revenue.
Minor vendor: Anyone who provides other services that support sports betting operations needs a minor vendor license.
Good-to-know info about sports betting
Sportsbooks have been the driving force behind the legalization movement across the country for one main reason: It’s a profitable business for them. That means that for the rest of us, the sports bettors, we lose more money than we make.
Don’t let that discourage you. The difference between winning and losing at a sportsbook is very small.
The magic number that all sports bettors should know is 52.4%. That is the percentage of wagers you need to win to break even with your sports bets.
Anything over 52.4% is profit. So while it is true that most bettors lose money, even just a small edge in placing your bets can put you in the black.
Another number you should know is 2%. That is generally considered to be the amount of your predetermined bankroll that you should use per wager. If you want to go higher, it’s your money, of course. But never go above 5%.
You will lose bets. But to withstand those losses and sustain your bankroll until the winning streak starts, keep your bets consistent.
It’s also important to understand the odds you’re looking at before placing any wagers. Colorado sportsbooks will operate in American odds, but there are three formats in which odds typically appear — American, decimal and fractional.
American odds will read with a plus or minus sign. You’ll see +150, -150 or any other number next to the name of the team. A +150 means that for a $100 bet, you would win $150 in profit. The return on that bet would be $250 — the $100 original bet plus the $150 in winnings.
If the odds are -150, then the return on the bet would be $166.67 — $100 for the bet and $66.67 in winnings.
Decimal odds are what you’ll see throughout most of Europe. A +150 in American odds appears as 2.50 in decimal odds. A -150 appears as 1.67.
Fractional odds are what you’re most likely to see at horse racing tracks. A +150 in American odds appears as 3/2. A -150 appears as 2/3.
Sports betting terminology to know
Naturally, we all want to sound like a successful pro when talking about sports betting. You want to act the part, feel the part and ideally have the results of the part. So one of the first things you need to understand is what people mean when they use certain terms.
Line/point spread: This is the number of points the favorite must win by for you to win your bet. The bookmaker sets an initial number, but it moves based on which side is receiving more action.
Action: A wager on a game or sporting event.
Laying the points: You’re betting the favorite and giving up the points.
Taking the points: You’re taking the underdog and getting the points.
Moneyline: These are also odds on which team is most likely to win, but instead of a point spread separating the underdog from favorite, the winning payoff is the difference. While available for all sports, moneylines are the typical bet for hockey and baseball.
Cover: To cover means to beat the point spread.
Push: Unlike with other casino games, there can be ties in sports betting. When it happens, it’s called a push, and it means your wager amount is refunded.
Even money: A bet that doesn’t include any odds or juice.
Juice: The commission the sportsbook takes off the top of the bet. Also known as vig.
Hedging: Placing a bet on the opposite outcome to either guarantee a certain amount of profit or to limit the losses of the original bet.
Futures: A bet on an event that takes place in the future, such as betting on the winner of the next Super Bowl at the start of the season.
Proposition bets: Betting on individual or team results that take place inside a specific event, like which starting pitcher will record the most strikeouts.
Parlay: A wager on two or more games in which all individual bets must be successful for the entire bet to be successful.
Totals bets: A bet placed on the combined total number of points scored in a game. Also called over/under bets.
In-play or in-game wagering: A type of betting that involves placing wagers on events already in progress, and with constantly shifting odds and lines.
Sharp: A professional or experienced and knowledgeable sports bettor.
Window: The counter inside a retail sportsbook where you place your bets.
Writer/teller: The person at the window (or behind the counter) who will take your bets.
Ticket: Your placed bet, as confirmed by a physical ticket you receive from the teller. The term ticket also applies to online and mobile bets.
Sportsbook vs. betting exchange
There can be some confusion on what separates a sportsbook from a betting exchange. Some people think that they are the same thing, but just have different names. They are not.
In betting with a sportsbook, you are betting against the house. The bookmaker has set the odds, and your bet is against that bookmaker and those odds. It’s how the majority of legal sports betting has been done since at least horse racing in the 18th century.
A betting exchange, on the other hand, is a bet you place against another bettor. Essentially it’s how you’ve been placing bets since you were a kid — “I bet you a dollar I can hit that stop sign with this rock.” Someone then steps forward and takes that bet.
At a betting exchange, you set the odds, and then it’s up to another person to take your bet. Think of it like a stock exchange.
The New York Stock Exchange doesn’t buy and sell stocks. It facilitates the buying and selling of stocks by two other parties. A betting exchange works the same way.
It doesn’t place odds or take bets. It creates a space that bettors on opposite sides of a wager can come together and make that bet.
You visit the betting exchange and either match someone’s posted bet or post a bet of your own and then wait for someone to match you. The betting exchange then charges a small fee for its services.
Betting exchanges have been around for years in the UK and are quite popular throughout much of Europe. In the US, however, legal betting exchanges would be limited to operating within state lines.
So instead of having one large betting exchange that truly works as an open market, a betting exchange would have to set up several small markets, each meeting a state’s regulations. At present, that hurdle has been enough to keep it from happening.
It is an exciting time to be a sports fan in Colorado. This state has always supported its sports teams, and now it will be able to place wagers on them. In the future, there may even be sports betting terminals located at stadiums and other sports venues, which was debated when the original bill was being written.
What is coming is mobile betting and all of the convenience that affords sports bettors. You’ll get up-to-the-minute odds, an entire menu of sports betting options, sporting events from around the world, and 24-hour access to your account. All on the device that you already carry wherever you go.
The geolocation technology that ensures you can bet on your mobile device from within the borders of Colorado will be less problematic here, as compared to some states on the East Coast. Unlike the crowded spaces and populated borders that define New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, the majority of Coloradans live, work and play inside the wide-open spaces of this state.
Colorado is also likely to become a testing ground for innovations within the industry. With so many casinos set to host sportsbooks, and all of the biggest names in sports betting coming to Colorado to open up online operations, these companies are going to experiment with new and unique ways to bring in new customers. And as technology continues to advance, so will ways to place sports wagers.
In short, if you live in Colorado or vacation in Colorado, and you enjoy sports betting, your life is about to get a whole lot better.