Circa CEO Derek Stevens Sees ‘An Explosion Of Business’ For Colorado Sports Betting

Written By Ian St. Clair on 06/29/2021 - Last Updated on March 21, 2024
Circa Sports one year in Colorado

Derek Stevens loves what he does.

Whether he’s throwing dice at the launch of a new resort in Las Vegas, or chatting at a sports bar in downtown Denver. The CEO for the Circa Resort seems to always have a smile on his face.

That also includes sports betting.

Yes, there is the incredible retail sportsbook in Las Vegas, but it’s also the Circa Sports Colorado betting app. The mobile sportsbook launched July 1 last year. It was the first state outside of Nevada for Circa Sports.

As the one-year anniversary approaches, PlayColorado did an interview with Stevens at the ViewHouse in downtown Denver. Stevens talks about the first year of sports betting for his app, what’s possible for Colorado sports betting, what a potential trade for Aaron Rodgers would mean for the Denver Broncos and the NFL, and how in-game betting is an untapped market.

PlayCO: How has Colorado been for you guys so far?

Stevens: Our Colorado business is growing. I think people have come to understand that Circa Sports takes larger bets than most (sportsbooks), and really larger bets than anybody. And that we are a promoter of, not the causal bettor, the professional bettor and sharp bettors. We like to utilize the information the professionals and sharps have and we embrace their play.

PlayCO: How has the competition in the state been this first year?

Stevens: I think what people will see is that our miles might be a little different than others. We’ve not spent a huge amount on public marketing. And to some degree, what that allows us to do is it allows us to offer better value to the players. When you see our lines or in-game lines, I think people will be pretty pleased that you’re getting some pretty good value when you’re making your plays.

I think it’s really clear when you take a look at some of the futures pools. Every week you’ve got a golf tournament. You have a Nascar race. When you take a look at futures (for) World Series or Super Bowl and you shop the lines, I think you’re going to find Circa Sports really provides the value that bettors appreciate.

PlayCO: What allows you to get that value on your lines?

Stevens: We’ve got some lower costs and we’re able to really manage our odds pools out of our hub in Vegas. We’re really more oriented around much higher volume with a little lower hold percentage than I think you’re going to find in the marketplace.

PlayCO: What is possible in this market?

Stevens: A year ago, things were so new in Colorado that it takes a little while for a market to develop. But now coming off a pandemic, I think you’re going to see an explosion of business in Colorado. You’re starting to see that a little bit with regular season baseball. It would be great if the Rockies were a little bit better. To have two playoff teams playing into June. And, obviously, this is a monster football market. I think Colorado is going to have some incredible growth over the next eight months.

PlayCO: If Aaron Rodgers is traded to the Broncos, what does that do for the Broncos and this market?

Stevens: If Aaron Rodgers does end up on one of these West Coast teams, and obviously the favorite is the Denver Broncos at this point, I think it would be a huge, huge bump to the Colorado market. We’ve always had some good business with Green Bay Packers fans. But when you see that type of smoke, there’s usually fire. If I was a Broncos fan, I’d be sitting here hopeful and anticipating because it changes everything.

PlayCO: What’s next for you guys?

Stevens: We got licensed in Iowa, so we’ll be opening up there by football season. And we’re actively working on deals to get in some other states. We want to make sure the deal is the right deal. So we’re not really trying to jump into 10-12 states in the next 12 months, that’s not our model. But our model is to really focus in on a jurisdiction and a state where we think our model works well.

We’re not a model that will work well in a really high tax state. Our model is all about providing the players good value. And if you’ve got a state with a really high tax rate we can’t offer the type of odds we offer on golf or on World Series or NFL futures. So for us, we need a state where there’s remote registration, remote funding, with a reasonable and workable tax rate. Some of the states that came out with really high tax rates, we’ve kind of backed off because we just didn’t think that would match up with what our business model is in trying to give value to the customer.

PlayCO: What is possible for sports betting in America?

Stevens: We’re seeing something where all the stars have aligned from an industry perspective. They could have aligned 15 years ago because the demand was there. But the pro sports leagues all took the position that gambling was taboo. But in a very, very short order, all of a sudden the NFL and Major League Baseball didn’t want anything to do with it, now they’re fully endorsing it. Hell, they own percentages in a lot of these sportsbooks.

But they’ve realized what it’s going to do. It’s going to allow for much, much bigger television and radio deals. If a (NFL) game is 38-7, and the over/under is 46, people are still going to be watching this game. So it’s good for television ratings. It’s good for radio ratings. It’s good for fans. And I think anybody knows, you don’t have to be a huge bettor to realize you feel differently. If you’re not really a gambler and you put a $20 bet on a Rockies game, over 9.5 runs, you’re going to feel differently. You get a little more excitement out of it. So I think we’re really in our infancy with regards to sports betting at this point.

PlayCO: You reached a deal with DeckPrism for live betting. Is that an under-developed market that is there to take if it gets more efficient, more effective and more streamlined?

Stevens: Absolutely. We’re excited about DeckPrism, and we use DeckPrism only in Colorado. We’re using deals to use DeckPrism in Iowa. These (the DeckPrism team) are some really, really brilliant people. There really is no real American-based bookmaking operation that has this type of skill set. European bookmaking is a completely different animal. And I really don’t think American gamblers really enjoy the European bookmaking scenario.

It’s really fundamentally made for soccer. And it doesn’t really apply here when you’ve got sports that have dramatic shifts — when a team punts in the NFL or when you get a change of possession in basketball — it just doesn’t match up as well the way those systems that have been in place in the U.K. and Europe for the last 20 years. So DeckPrism is a key component for American bookmaking going forward. We’re glad that we got a great relationship with them. And I do think they’re going to change the way American bettors view the in-game markets.

PlayCO: As a bettor yourself, how fun is it to actually be able to do this now?

Stevens: I don’t know if this is G-rated or not, so I’m just going to say it’s freaking great.

Photo by AP / Ben Margot
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Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

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