Colorado crossed another impressive threshold in January, becoming the sixth state in U.S. history to take in more than $300 million 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 Colorado’s retail and online sportsbooks, which has the potential to take in more than $3 billion in wagers this year, according to PlayColorado.com, which provides news and analysis of the state’s gaming industry.
“What’s really stuck out is just how relentless Colorado’s growth has been,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayColorado.com. “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.”
Colorado’s online and retail sportsbooks generated a record $326.9 million in bets in January, according to data released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Division of Gaming. That was up 14.9% from $284.6 million 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 $22.7 million, up from $17.2 million in December and topping the previous record of $18.4 million set in November. January’s gross gaming revenue yielded $11.7 million in net sports betting proceeds, up from $5.7 million in November. That produced $1.2 million in state taxes in December.
The opening month of 2021, in addition to the $31.2 million handle sportsbooks generated on the Super Bowl, could be the beginning of a year that could bring in $3 billion in wagering, $200 million in gross gaming revenue, and more than $6 million 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 $348.2 million 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 $75 million in bets on pro football. But the NBA, which enjoyed its first full month of the 2020-21 season, fueled $88.4 million on pro basketball. And college basketball generated another $39.9 million. And continued interest in sports outside the mainstream, most notably table tennis, has made Colorado unique among U.S. markets. With $11.8 million in January bets, table tennis has now generated $78.3 million 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.”
For more information and analysis on regulated sports betting in Colorado, visit PlayColorado.com/revenue.