Colorado: Sports Betting Popularity Grows, but Will Problem Gambling Grow Too?

Legalized in November 2019, Colorado launched its sports betting market in May 2020. Since then, the interest in the activity has been continuously growing and so has been the tax revenue. By now, state coffers have collected some $12 million in tax revenue, the bigger half of which is expected to boost water projects.

Gambling Advertising Is Raising Concerns

Currently, there are more than two dozen online and mobile sportsbooks operating in Colorado. This means that there’s high demand and there are plenty of options for sports fans. Not unexpectedly, a market with a lot of players means that sportsbooks need better promotions and advertising.

However, advertising may be hiding risks for people who are suffering or are at risk of problem gambling. According to the incoming president of the board for the Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado, Peggy Brown, who recently spoke to CPR, the increase in advertising is raising concerns. She outlined that gambling ads can serve as a “trigger for those that have problems.”

On the other hand, wherever there is a problem, there is a solution. In other states where sports betting is legal and regulated, lawmakers have introduced various methods that help prevent or reduce problem gambling. Such methods include the introduction of deposit or spending limits, gambling-self-exclusion options, or problem gambling treatment. Part of the tax revenue that Colorado collects from gambling also goes to help fight problem gambling, while lawmakers in the state may consider legislative changes for additional changes as early as next year.

The Market in Colorado Is Thriving

Focusing on the positive side, the legal and regulated betting market in Colorado led to a decrease in the share of black market operators. In fact, the start of the football season, combined with a full schedule of sporting events this year resulted in a record-breaking handle for sports bets in the state this October.

In October, sportsbooks in the Centennial State recorded $491.5 million in sports betting handle. This marked a 20% increase when compared to September. But a year-over-year comparison to October 2020 shows that the sports betting handle has doubled.

Here, Dan Hartman, who is a director of Colorado’s Division of Gaming acknowledged that he expected the market to “mature down” in time with more players switching to the legal market. However, he said that the process turned out to be way faster than expected and resulted in a lot of people switching “out of that black market.”

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