Colorado sports betting has come quite a way.
James Salinas knows firsthand.
The proud “North Denver kid” used to hit up the “local guys” for action during his high school days in the 1980s.
“We had a lot of opportunities to engage in gambling and sports betting back in the day,” Salinas recalled.
Now — particularly after winning the 2015 Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest — Salinas is a respected, nationally known bettor.
Not to mention a Denver Parks and Recreation administrator and a Vegas Stats and Information Network show host.
As for sports betting in Colorado, bettors can fire up one of the US-most 26 online apps. Or drive to the mountain towns of Black Hawk, Central City or Cripple Creek to place a live bet at a retail sportsbook.
Salinas, famously, did just that in April to attempt to wager on the NFL Draft.
A “crazy” amount of sports betting world hubbub ensued from that casual trip “up the hill.” That included a just-completed Colorado Division of Gaming investigation.
And that’s where we pick up the Salinas-sports wagering storyline …
‘Incredibly appreciative’ of the support
Salinas’ attempted bets at — and his ensuing dispute with — the Ameristar Casino’s Barstool Sportsbook have been well-documented here at PlayColorado.
The Division of Gaming recently cleared Barstool of any wrongdoing in the incident.
That certainly didn’t sit well with Salinas. But he isn’t chalking up his filed complaint as a lost cause by any means.
“I’m incredibly appreciative for all the support from the sports betting community,” Salinas said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Not only was it support from bettors but also from sportsbook operators because they understand about good business practices and the retention of customers. I had no idea it was going to go to the level it’s gone to as far as the exposure in the sports betting world. … If anything I’ve won throughout this process, I did keep my integrity intact, and my word is good.”
Investigative process lacking
Salinas claims he has been betting for 35 years.
But he said this is the first time he has filed an official complaint against a sportsbook.
The Colorado Division of Gaming’s strictly online process, though, didn’t leave a favorable impression.
“I wasn’t familiar with it at all,” Salinas said. “The most unfortunate part is there is no accessibility. It’s all done online. You don’t speak with anybody. There’s no name attached to Colorado Gaming or the investigation. And there wasn’t any follow-up.
“I don’t feel like it was a very thorough investigation. There were some definite discrepancies from their side and my side, and I’d think if you were doing a thorough investigation, you’d want to follow up both ways.”
Salinas received a summary of the investigation and decision last week — more than a month after he lodged his complaint.
PlayColorado has yet to receive a full copy of that summary.
Barstool Sports management in Black Hawk also has not returned repeated messages requesting comment.
Salinas, though, said he was notified that this decision is “final.”
“I don’t what other recourse there would be for me,” he said. “I would’ve really appreciated someone reaching out to me and having an actual conversation. It just felt like a very sterile process.”
“… (I) just hope I don’t have to go through this process again.”
Salinas: Too much gray area, ambiguity
As aforementioned, there now are more sports wagering avenues and options than ever.
Salinas said it appears states like Colorado, which are fairly new to legalized sports wagering, adopt the same general set of regulations.
From there, though, sportsbooks’ house rules rule, Salinas stated.
Still, are the industry’s current regulations as a whole too tilted in sportsbooks’ favor?
Salinas didn’t say as much Wednesday. But he did — to borrow some wagering lingo — offer a fairly strong lean.
“(There’s a) lot of gray area within those rules, and I think that’s the bigger issue,” he said. “There’s a lot of ambiguity. There’s so many things that could be misconstrued or misinterpreted. … Then it’s open to interpretation.
“That’s something that could use some better regulation eyes on: Finding where those rules have a lot of gray area. Maybe it’s time to tighten some of those up.”
In the meantime, though, Salinas said ignoring players’ signals — especially from the key bettors — is a mistake. He puts up his failed attempt to bet at Barstool as a prime example.
“It was ignorant for them in short term,” Salinas said. “Smart money can help books shape their lines if they’re hanging a bad line.”
Lessons there for the learning
Salinas insists he’s looking ahead.
“Now we move on to other things and other games to bet,” he said.
Salinas said he plans on entering the SuperContest for an eighth straight year this summer.
Still, he hopes the industry can glean something positive from his incident in Black Hawk.
“If anything, regardless of how Barstool conducts themselves — I don’t expect them to change at all — maybe this is a lesson for other sportsbooks,” Salinas said. “Because I’m sure they’re now fully aware of what transpired. Maybe this has heightened their awareness that they need to be more mindful and or diligent about how they operate their own betting practices when it comes to engagement with the public. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned there.
“There are so many operators out here,” he continued. “They’re all competing for customers’ business. There are the odds offered on different sports available and the bonuses and those kinds of things, but ultimately what keeps customers coming back in most fields is that consistent, positive customer service.”