When it comes to the wide world of sports, rodeo is an event unlike any you will witness.
Yes, the athletes have the same level of competitive drive and will to win. But the cowboys and cowgirls are also competing against animals. That’s a whole new beast.
For bull riders, it’s literally life and death. The name Lane Frost is always top of mind.
Frost was killed on Sunday, July 30, 1989, at Cheyenne Frontier Days after his eight-second ride atop Taking Care of Business.
Imagine a bull rider as he lurks on top of the bucking chutes before making his ascension to rig up an animal that weighs anywhere from 1,700-1,800 pounds.
The amazing aspect of bull riding is it’s over in eight seconds. That is if the cowboy rides that long.
If you blink, you miss it.
Bull riding betting
Now imagine betting on it.
Yes, you can bet on bull riding in Colorado.
Colorado sports betting allows operators to offer bull riding markets on Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
With the latter, sportsbooks typically only put up markets for the National Finals Rodeo (NFR).
For those who don’t know, that’s the Super Bowl of rodeo. It’s typically held the first week of December and in Las Vegas. The lone change came last year when it was held in Arlington, Texas, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it will return to Las Vegas this year from Dec. 2-11.
Now that Wyoming readies to enter the sports betting world, it’s too early to know if the Cowboy State will offer rodeo betting.
The Wyoming Gaming Commission is in the process of putting the rules together. The hope is that the rules are in place by Sept. 1, and fans in Wyoming are able to place bets shortly after. If Wyoming does allow legal rodeo betting, it may look similar to what Colorado offers.
In terms of the markets that rodeo fans can bet on in Colorado, it’s usually a futures bet on who will win the go-round or the event.
Bull riding betting markets
Here are the approved bull riding markets that sportsbooks can offer in Colorado:
- Rider outright winner
- Bull outright winner
- Outright event winner
- Head-to-head for riders
- Head-to-head for bulls
- Rider score over/under
- Bull score over/under
If a sportsbook wants to offer a different market or event at the rodeo, PlayColorado was told by the Division of Gaming that it must submit that to the Division director to be approved and added to the catalog.
“You could do individual rides but that has found to have been difficult in the past. You have to have a live feed to do that,” Johnny Avello, DraftKings sportsbook director of operations, said. “I mean, you could do it pre-match before the ride starts. But for the most part, it’s who’s going to win a certain event.”
Bull riding basics
For those new to bull riding, it is a judged event. Yes, you have eight seconds to complete your ride, but judges determine the score cowboys get. That is the case for the PRCA and PBR.
In the PRCA, during the regular season, there are two judges who score a ride on a scale from 0-25. As the PRCA rules state, to earn a qualified score, the cowboy, while using only one hand, must stay aboard a bull for eight seconds. If the rider touches the animal, himself or any of his equipment with his free hand, he is disqualified.
The two judges each score a cowboy’s qualified ride by awarding zero to 25 points for the rider’s performance and zero to 25 points for the animal’s effort. The judges’ scores are then combined to determine the contestant’s score. A perfect score is 100 points.
As for the PBR, the same holds true; however, it’s four judges. As the PBR rules state, they award up to 25 points each to the rider and the bull. All four of the judges’ scores are combined and then divided by two for the official score.
For both the PRCA and PBR, a 90-point ride is considered outstanding.
Operators that offer bull riding
As for the operators who offer bull riding betting:
DraftKings offers PBR and bull riding at its sportsbooks in Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, New Jersey and Tennessee. PlayColorado was told the sportsbook should have betting opportunities around upcoming events, and the sportsbook team is looking into what it can get on the boards.
BetMGM said that bull riding is a complicated, hard sport to price. That is why the sportsbook doesn’t currently have it listed and doesn’t have plans to list it in the immediate future.
For FanDuel, PlayColorado was told available sports always come down to four things:
- Regulations (if available via legislation)
- Customer interest
- Available data
- Resources available at the sportsbook
As Jay Kornegay, the executive vice president of operations at the Westgate SuperBook, said:
“I do believe some might post the NFR here, but I’ve heard just through whispers, and nothing really official from (Nevada) Gaming, that it had very minimal action.”
History of rodeo betting
To get an idea of how we got to this point with rodeo betting, it’s important to look back at its history.
Kornegay said the SuperBook posted the NFR on its board around 25 years ago and was asked to take it down by the NFR.
“We thought it would actually be a boost for them and (get them) more interest,” Kornegay said. “With that said, since it was so brand new and probably a lot of people didn’t even know we had it up at that time. Of course, this is before apps and probably even before cellphones.
“We had minimal action on it. Like grocery dollars. We actually looked at it like we were helping them out and giving them a boost by posting them on the board. The NFR is always sold out here. It’s very difficult to get tickets. That still remains today. Therefore, we still had a lot of cowboys and rodeo fans in town who didn’t even go to the rodeo. They would watch it, even tape delayed, in sportsbooks.”
NFR betting allowed
Kornegay said that changed a few years later when the NFR started allowing wagering on its events. He’s unsure how it came about or why the change was made.
“At that time, it just seemed like sports betting was gaining a lot of momentum,” Kornegay said. “I’ll say this is probably the early 2000s, and at that time, we just didn’t have any time to repost it. We were doing our own numbers, and it was very, very time-consuming.
“And since we had such minimal action, we decided it really wasn’t worth our time because we had to evaluate how we spend our time, and we thought it would be better served (elsewhere). Some of the other sports were expanding and other propositions were being made on other major sports and we just didn’t have the time to post the rodeo.”
Could bull riding betting catch on?
Now with more resources and the ability for people to wager from apps, there’s potential for bull riding betting to catch on.
“I think that if someone were to make those odds and set those, that it could be somewhat popular,” Kornegay said. “The rodeo is so popular here, so it has a terrific following if the rodeo fans were to get comfortable enough to when they come into town, sign up and wager on the app, I could see it being attractive for a lot of rodeo fans.”
“Will it be an added attraction to our menu? Yes. Like other things. Right now, we’re doing cornhole. We do darts. Catch-on is a term where, I think some people will look forward to wagering on it when the event is going on, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. I don’t think it’ll be one of our top offerings.”
Bull riding odds
Since some of the sportsbooks said bull riding is a difficult market to price and why they don’t offer it, how tough is it to put odds together on this?
“I’ve done (the odds) before, so it takes a bit of research,” Avello said. “But I don’t think it’ll be any more difficult than what I’ve done in the past. We’ll put the team together and give them the information needed and we’ll get some prices up on this.”
Kornegay shared a personal anecdote from early in his career when he was putting the odds up for alpine skiing for the Las Vegas Sports Consultant.
“It was so time-consuming,” he said. “Oh my gosh, it was just painful trying to get the information and for minimal dollars. Meaning minimal action on these events. And that’s how it was with the rodeo. But, nowadays, with all of the conveniences that we have and the way we can get the word out, certainly rodeo has a very good chance of gaining some traction in the industry.
“It’s very time-consuming because you’re putting these things together. You want to make sure the cowboys are healthy, does he still have that wrist problem. There’s still a lot of things you have to look at. I can tell you, I wouldn’t mind posting it, I wouldn’t want to make those odds though.”
Rodeo is an event unlike any other in the world of sports.
The fact you can actually wager on bull riding in Colorado could attract new bettors to this untapped market.