SI Sportsbook Off And Running In Colorado, Now The 26th Sports Betting App

Written By Ian St. Clair on September 7, 2021

The Sports Illustrated Sportsbook is officially live in Colorado.

And just in the nick of time, too. The launch comes a few days before the NFL regular season kicks off on Thursday night and the season opener for the Denver Broncos.

A few weeks ago there was some confusion over whether the sportsbook was live on the website.

Now, there is none as the Sports Illustrated Sportsbook is full go. SI Sportsbook partnered with the Colorado Grande Casino in Cripple Creek to bring sports betting to the state. The 888 sports betting app is currently live in New Jersey.

Earlier this summer, 888sport and Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the parent company of Sports Illustrated, announced an exclusive partnership to bring online sports betting and iGaming to the U.S.

Colorado is the first state to launch the new sportsbook. There are now 26 Colorado sports betting apps live in the state.

As you would expect, bettors in Colorado will see some decent promos.

  • SI Sportsbook will offer Colorado punters a Bet $10, Get $50 welcome promotion when they join. This offer will last throughout the football season.
  • The sportsbook plans to introduce a new free to play game, “Perfect 10”, where users make 10 picks every week. Players will get a $1 free bet for every pick they select correctly. If they make all 10 picks correctly, they will split a $10,000 grand prize.

To kick off the launch here, PlayColoardo did a Q&A with Yaniv Sherman, senior vice president and head of U.S. for 888 and Sports Illustrated executive.

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Sports Illustrated Sportsbook Colorado launch

PlayCO: Why launch in Colorado now?

Sherman: Well, we’ve looked at this sort of extensively leading up to it. We secured a few market access deals back in 2020. When we looked at the markets, we wanted to launch in a state that had … Well, we look at this in a very analytic way. We (look at) various factors like GDP, sports teams, demographics. And we have quite a few states in the pipeline, but Colorado struck us as the market that I think by living with the competitive landscape, people all expected to be a robust marketplace.

We thought it would be a good place to start and launch our proprietary sportsbook and to sort of give it the leg up or the initial, ‘Let’s go to market,’ approach after launching in New Jersey in 2018. So the market’s longevity and its depth and its financial parameters and sports teams, they all sort of culminated to that decision a few months ago.

PlayCO: In terms of the timing, it obviously helps to have the launch of the NFL. Did that tie into this too just in terms of the timing of it?

Sherman: Absolutely. We wanted to be up and running leading up to the NFL season. We had a chance to do that maybe a bit sooner, but it also converged with our Sports Illustrated deal. Yeah. I mean, as you can see, the sports market in the U.S. moves or oscillates typically between the end of the football seasons, both college and the NFL. Legislation also hunts these cycles if you look historically at the short history that it had. So the timing was definitely … a part of that launch sequence where the vast majority of bets are taken, which is obviously college weekends, football weekends.

PlayCO: How will the SI sports work separate itself from the myriad of competition out here? You guys are going to be the 26th sports betting app. So what will separate you guys from the others that are here?

Sherman: Well, I think you should separate this between the podium operators, and obviously DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM all have podium positions. They’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their brands and the propositions. We are taking a slightly different approach. The combination of our technology and product with Sports Illustrated legacy brand, we’re looking to sort of punch above our weight class and move into that second tier.

As you mentioned, it’s a healthy (market) … I think it tests the market’s potential. It has so much competition in it, but I think if you look down the list, there are very few operators that have enjoyed the combination that they both own their tech, their marketing operations and a U.S. facing apple pie legacy brand like we’ll be bringing to the marketplace. So that combination, and also, we’re trying to create sort of a seamless entertainment meets sports betting experience that a lot of people have been talking about but we hope to be able to serve. As I mentioned, we control our destiny in that regard. Most other operators do not. They rely on third-party technology.

PlayCO: What can Colorado bettors expect?

Sherman: Well, they’ll see a full product. Within the next few days, we’ll be rolling this out. We’ll be self-launching it this week. Then through next week, they’ll see a full stack, PC, iOS or Apple naturally, on the App Store, and Google Play on Android. You’ll start seeing that tie up between Sports Illustrated, it’s a gambling section, and the Sports Illustrated sportsbook. They’ll be able to move between these propositions. They’ll be able to consume sports content and then sports betting related content and then actually place bets in sort of a seamless way between the two propositions.

The sportsbooks itself, I mean, 888 has had a big presence, a very big global sports betting business for years now. We’ve taken billions of dollars in bets and migrated our almost entire betting volume onto our proprietary tech outside the U.S. It’s going to be a very deep product with a large section and variety of events and integrated with all the major feed providers and rings. So they can expect a very full 360 experience between sports content and sports betting product that will be competitive.

PlayCO: How big could this be? I mean, even novice sports fans know Sports Illustrated. So even if they’ve never bet on sports, they’ll know the name Sports Illustrated. How much could that impact just drawing in the people who may not be the sharps or the experienced sports bettor, but it might get them into seeing what it’s like?

Sherman: I think you hit the nail on the head with that. The biggest runway in the market, one of the biggest runways, is the recreational betters. And everybody’s trying to cater for them, but at the end of the day, very few were able to crack it.

So everybody knows what Sports Illustrated is, but to place a bet with you, it’s a longer journey. That’s what we need to sort of cater for, people who love to talk about fictionalist experiences. We have to remember this is sports betting, so it’s highly regulated. That’s our core competency. We need to create both a seamless but a safe player journey, make sure that everyone’s bet with you meet that criteria.

PlayCO: What is next for the sportsbook?

Sherman: Well, we’re working on a North American strategy. We have two other market access deals, and we have a healthy pipeline that we’ll sort of share with the market over the next, I would say, few weeks. We’re definitely looking to ramp up the pace in which we roll out states. We’re going to roll out, let’s call it, three to four states between this time and late 2022, maybe even more. Essentially, ramping up and getting more states with SI and also getting SI to a multi-product state. So we’ll be able to offer Sports Illustrated branded gaming products as well as free-to-play games and others.

So it’s not just about real money gaming. It’s also rolling out the free-to-play and social strategy that will compliment an entire gaming experience, building a relationship with player bases in states that are to be regulated I think is very, very important with states from other experiences. That’s definitely our aggressive work plan for 2022 and 2023.

Photo by AP / David Zalubowski
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Ian St. Clair

Ian St. Clair is an award-winning sports journalist. He is a University of Northern Colorado graduate, Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. Ian does a weekly sports betting segment each Wednesday on the VSIN Denver CityCast each Saturday on Klahr and Kompany on Denver radio station ESPN 1600 AM.

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