A Blip Or Just The Beginning? Why Are Colorado Retail Sportsbooks Closing?

Written By Darren Cooper on 07/24/2023 - Last Updated on July 26, 2023
Can retail sportsbooks survive with online betting?

Colorado clearly hasn’t lost its thirst for sports betting, but it seems to have lost its desire to do so in person.

PlayColorado called and confirmed with Z Casino, learning Maverick closed down three retail sportsbook locations. That leaves Colorado with just 10 retail sportsbooks operating. There are nine in Blackhawk and one in Cripple Creek.

While online sportsbooks in the state have started to falter, and some apps, the reduction in retail sportsbooks is an interesting snapshot of the industry. Figures show 98 percent of sports bets made in Colorado are online.

Did Colorado open too many retail sportsbooks? Or has online sports betting become so simple, so convenient, that there’s just no reason to make a bet in person when you can do so in seconds from your phone?

There could be cultural issues at play here as well.

No one joins a bowling league anymore

As with retail, Colorado online sports betting has yet to reach full maturity. The state is down to 20 online sportsbooks after reaching a high of 26.

Betting trends in Colorado mirror every other state that has both retail and online sports betting. Retail bets make up 1% to 3% of the total bets across the country. As with many other things, from shopping to socializing, people prefer to use their phones over face-to-face interactions. Retail sportsbooks seem to be a victim of that, just like brick-and-mortar stores and bowling alleys.

It was once a societal norm for people to join bowling leagues, meet at the local alley with friends, bowl a few games, and have a couple of drinks. As someone who grew up with his parents’ bowling trophies on the shelves, I can attest to this reality. Then, television took off, then more channels, then cable, then satellite, and now streaming … people just don’t socialize in their communities like they used to.

Many Colorado retail sportsbooks are simply restaurants with a kiosk or a cage to make a bet. And gambling is mainly a solitary activity. So, getting together with a bunch of buddies on a random Thursday night to go to the sportsbook and lay down some wagers doesn’t have a particular appeal.

Why go to a retail sportsbook when you can sit at home with your own cold adult beverage and favorite snacks in the pantry? Most players like to follow the game on their screens and chill.

Online sportsbooks market their promotions and bonuses well

We’ve all seen the new customer deals and the Colorado sports betting bonuses – ones like get up to $1,000 back of your stake if your first bet loses or get up to $200 in bonus bets after a small initial bet.

Online sportsbooks have done a great job advertising what they can provide for new and returning players. They are better than retail sportsbooks in that way.

The other thing that online sportsbooks do is allow players to look at multiple odds lines on events. If you walked into a Caesars retail sportsbook and placed a bet, you’re using Caesars’ lines; you don’t have the flexibility to line shop.

Retail sportsbooks can make offers like half-off drinks or food specials, but they can’t match line-shopping opportunities.

Now is a bad time for retail sportsbooks to prosper

The other reason why Colorado might be seeing a drop in the number of retail sportsbooks also has to do with the calendar. The only big thing in sports at the end of July is Major League Baseball. There is no NBA, no NHL, and the first NFL regular-season game is weeks away.

The whole state of Colorado was gripped watching the Denver Nuggets win their first NBA title. The state bet $122.7 million in online bets on the NBA in May – and you know about 90 percent of that was on the Nuggets. Retail sportsbooks need those types of big games or big events to survive.

Online sportsbooks can offer betting on a long list of sports being played around the world. It’s a veritable 24/7 smorgasbord of sports, whether Chinese ping-pong, Korean baseball, or cornhole. That’s something retail sportsbooks can’t match.

The sports betting industry in Colorado isn’t in any trouble. The market is simply following what people want and how they want to spend their money and time.

For now, and maybe forever, most of that market is not at a retail sportsbook.

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Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper was born and raised in Southern Louisiana, just a short pirogue ride away from New Orleans. He started his journalism career at the New Orleans Times-Picayune and has been a writer and columnist in New Jersey since 1998. He's won 14 statewide press awards and earned his first Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award in 2022.

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