Colorado Breaks The Mold By Allowing Fans To Wager On Local College Teams

Written By Ian St. Clair on 03/17/2021 - Last Updated on March 19, 2021

Let’s pause for a moment to appreciate that Colorado did it right.

Not sports betting, per se, but what the state allows fans to wager on.

Since the market is about to embark on its first March Madness betting, Colorado allows fans of the home state teams to wager on them.

So unlike Illinois, which doesn’t allow fans to wager on the No. 1-seed University of Illinois, fans of the University of Colorado can place a bet on their team.

The same archaic rules are in place in New Jersey (the state that started it) and Virginia.

Why did Colorado differ from these other markets?

According to Dan Hartman, the director for the Colorado Division of Gaming:

“The debate to include home teams seems to be a public policy issue with many different sides. In Colorado, the conclusion was made that, because we had set up a strong and sturdy system, we wouldn’t eliminate certain teams or games because of our belief and trust in the regulatory framework we established.”

Limiting in-state college betting pushes gamblers to offshore markets

Seems like simple logic if you allow college basketball betting to give fans of the teams in their states to wager on them, but as is the case with stuff like this, people make it too complicated.

What people should keep an eye on is if and when these states pivot course.

If there’s enough backlash from bettors and fans, it could happen.

What the regulators and states need to realize is by limiting fans from betting on in-state teams, they’re pushing those bettors to the offshore markets. In other words, people are wagering on it anyway, so put the action in a regulated market and keep that money in your state.

In the meantime, while Illinois and Virginia debate who has it worse (video at the top of the story), at least fans of the Buffaloes in Colorado don’t have to fret.

They can actually bet on Saturday’s game against No. 12-seed Georgetown.

CU remains the favorite.

CU-PointsBet partnership

Speaking of the Buffs, one hot-button sports betting topic is the deal between the university and PointsBet.

Figures of that partnership were released for the first time last week.

According to a report by Bloomberg Tax, the deal is worth $1.65 million and includes tax write off.

Setting the financial terms aside, there has been talk of the implications and what this deal says about possible ethical lines.

According to many NCAA stakeholders, sports betting will kill the integrity of college sports. Thus, they see this deal as a major step down a dark path.

If you had the misfortune of tuning in to the “Protecting The Integrity of College Athletics” hearing in Congress last July, that foreboding message was impossible to miss.

Heather Lyke, the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh, called for Congress to ban betting on all college athletics. As Lyke said in her prepared remarks at the time:

“The introduction of legal wagering on intercollegiate athletics will have a corrosive and detrimental impact on student-athletes and the general student body alike. Gambling creates pressures and temptations that should not exist.”

Now imagine how she feels about this sports betting partnership.

For others, it’s a question of whether this is a reactionary impulse from those hesitant and resistant to change.

Does the state have ethical concerns?

Up until now, the state hasn’t really commented on the deal between CU and PointsBet.

Is the state at all concerned about the partnership crossing that ethical line of college and gambling?

As Hartman said:

“In light of all the ways operators can interact with teams, these types of arrangements between operators and agencies, corporations, and institutions put these independent partnerships in the commercial market where they belong. Commercial partnerships provide positive benefits, even outside of athletics, for the collegiate institutions that decide to work with a sports betting operator.”

Aside from putting the sportsbook in front of more eligible users, this deal puts a focus on education.

Because of this agreement, students at CU interested in sports betting can intern at PointsBet. That works because the company has its headquarters in LoDo, which is in downtown Denver.

When it comes to sports betting, the country remains in uncharted territory.

From states allowing fans to wager on their local teams (or not), to partnerships between college institutions and sportsbooks, this is all new.

There’s also not a catchall for how to do it.

You learn and grow.

It seems Colorado is doing it the right way.

Photo by AP / Darron Cummings
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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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