Colorado Sports Betting to Employ the Simple Magic of Geolocation

Written By Derek Helling on 12/31/2019 - Last Updated on February 10, 2020
GPS device on top of a Map

Colorado’s legal online sportsbooks will know whether bettors are actually physically within the state’s borders. That’s because of geolocation services that sports betting operators employ.

While the technology is still improving in some ways, it’s extremely accurate right now. In order to take advantage of Colorado legal sports betting in the future, residents of and visitors to the Centennial State will need to be within its borders.

Proliferation of geolocation in the age of legal sports betting

While none of the states that border Colorado have legalized sports betting yet, many other states in the country have. Note: some tribal casinos in New Mexico do offer sports betting, but the state government hasn’t legalized it.

Learning from other states’ experiences, it’s possible to draw some conclusions about how geolocation will work in Colorado.

All the necessary components already exist. That includes both the hardware and software. It’s simply a matter of activating it to work within state borders.

That applies regardless of whether you access legal online sportsbooks in the future via a computer or a mobile device. Mobile sportsbook operators like DraftKings employ the services.

When you register for an account with a legal sportsbook, you have to agree to let the book access your location. If you don’t, the operator won’t allow you access.

How geolocation works in other states

After you’ve enabled location services, the software in your mobile device or computer determines your location using your IP address or a GPS signal. The detection is very accurate, usually to within 70 meters and constantly improving.

While there are ways to manipulate location services, the sportsbooks and state governments are aware of them. Using a mask, tunnel or VPN will be to no avail.

Coloradans might wonder why it’s necessary for the sportsbooks to validate their location. It’s all because of federal and state laws.

While there’s no federal law against sports betting since the US Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018, there is one pertinent law that still pertains to the activity. That is the Wire Act of 1961.

Why geolocation services are so legally important

As it is currently interpreted, it’s illegal for gambling companies like legal sportsbooks to transmit information pertaining to gaming across state lines. That’s why states must ensure gambling activities stay within their borders.

Geolocation is even more pertinent for Colorado because as previously mentioned, sports betting remains illegal in all neighbor states. Even those who are legal residents of Colorado would be in violation of state law if they placed a bet in places like Kansas or Oklahoma.

Among states that do have legalized sports betting, rules and regulations vary. For example, Iowa doesn’t allow prop bets on college players’ performances while Colorado has no such ban.

Because of that, it’s imperative for sportsbooks to locate you so they know which laws govern your bets. Even in states with identical laws, however, the federal Wire Act applies.

For all these reasons, geolocation is necessary. When legal sports betting launches in Colorado, it will be part of the framework in the Centennial State as well.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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