The unpredictable ride that is Colorado sports betting just added a new twist, with college football cancellations happening in the fall.
First the market launches amid the COVID-19 pandemic and no major US sports, now this.
Both the Pac-12 and Mountain West Conferences postponed their fall sports seasons earlier this week, including football. The Big Ten Conference made a similar move as well.
That means fans of the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Air Force Academy and University of Wyoming (there are a lot of Cowboys fans in Colorado) won’t get to experience college football betting on their favorite teams.
Even smaller schools like the University of Northern Colorado had its college football season postponed.
It’s not just the fall sports that are impacted by this decision.
Winter sports won’t start until at least January 2021. So that means no college basketball or college basketball betting on these conferences for the rest of the year either.
Impact of no college football on Colorado sports betting
Jay Kornegay said it best when he said it’s just not a normal year on planet Earth.
Kornegay is the executive vice president of operations at the Westgate SuperBook. It was announced in April that the SuperBook will pair up with The Lodge Casino in Black Hawk to provide both an online and on-site sportsbook option to prospective bettors. The hope is to have it launched “soon.”
As for what this means for the three-month-old Colorado market and for sports betting in general, Kornegay said:
“I think the effects are going to be very similar. Even though Colorado was going to experience their first college football season. In other jurisdictions that have already gone through a number of seasons, or maybe just one, whenever you lose about 35% of your football handle because they’re not going to play the season, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it’s a pretty big punch to the gut. However, we do believe a lot of that college football handle will be transplanted to the pro football side.
Even more so if the NFL expands their playing days to include maybe Friday and most likely Saturday. If we’re able to see two or three pro football games on Saturday like we do on Thanksgiving Day, and they do take advantage of that opportunity of college football not being played, those games will receive a tremendous amount of action. Whenever you isolate a game, it doesn’t matter if it’s college football, pro football or a basketball game, if it’s isolated it spikes the interest and that includes the betting handle on that particular game.”
How much handle will sportsbooks lose?
There is no doubt there’s disappointment on multiple levels regarding no college football in the Centennial State. From a sports betting perspective, that is especially true. Namely the fans who could have bet on the Buffaloes or Rams for the first time in the state.
But it’s also true for the Colorado sportsbook apps who now lose that handle. As Kornegay noted, college football makes up 35% of the SuperBook’s football handle.
As for the universities, Ralphie Report notes that CU will lose an estimated $88 million without football in 2020.
The one plus out of this is that since Colorado has never offered college football betting before, you can’t lose what you never had.
As Dan Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, said to PlayColorado:
“We have been following the news about college football, along with everyone, wondering what this means not only for sports betting but also for the players, the programs, and the institutions. With our launch of sports betting in May, we don’t have a year over year comparison to know the impact it will have on the Colorado betting market. Looking over the preceding last three months of sports betting in Colorado, the return of professional sports has demonstrated that Colorado has a sustainable market moving forward; we do anticipate that college football will have the same impact whenever they get the chance to play.”
Bigger jump in NFL betting
As Kornegay said earlier, the other way this could turn into a positive is an even bigger focus on NFL betting. The NFL drives sports betting as it is, but if the league does what Kornegay suggests and plays games on Saturday, the potential handle is massive. When you add in the excitement of Drew Lock and the Denver Broncos to a new sports betting market, that only grows.
“I think 70-80% of that will move to the pro side. Most of them are already playing the pro side, but I think they’ll play it even more so if there’s not a college football season; especially if the NFL expands their game days to include Saturdays.”
Some conferences still going forward
Of course, three conferences still plan on going forward with the college football season, at least as of now. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC are unfettered by the other conferences and the implications of the coronavirus. So while Colorado sports fans won’t get to bet on the local teams, there is still a chance they could bet on Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma.
As Kornegay said:
“We don’t break it down by conference. However, we know how much interest there is in the bigger conferences, including the three that move forward and play some sort of season this fall. With that said, it’s just not a normal year on planet Earth. It’s affecting everything. So we’re just moving forward with the information that we have. From a bookmaker’s point of view, is part of a college football season better than nothing? Yes. I feel for the Colorado fans because the Pac-12 will not be part of this fall season.
It was going to be their first opportunity to play for or against the Buffs, along with the Mountain West Conference. You won’t be able to support some of your favorite teams, whether it’s CSU, Air Force or Wyoming. But they’ll make up for it and we understand that. It’s not completely nixed at this time. We’re still talking about postponing the fall football season, not cancelling it.”
Nothing is normal
The other question you may have asked: What does this mean for futures betting and those who may have had a wager?
According to Kornegay, here’s the SuperBook’s plan. It’s safe to assume that the other sportsbooks will follow something similar.
“Obviously if they don’t have futures on the Big Ten or Big 12, those will be all refunded if they don’t play it all out. We’re still trying to get as much information as we can before we make any decision and see how they’re going to play this out. But, obviously, if they don’t play it out, it’s going to be a refund.”
When Colorado legalized sports betting, the adventure was inevitable.
But to then do so with a pandemic, no major sports and now no college football?
Welcome to the year 2020, where nothing is normal.