Colorado Grants First Sports Betting Licenses, Tribes May Enter Market

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has stated its intent to open a sports betting facility at its Ute Mountain Casino, near Towaoc, 10 miles south of Cortez.

Colorado, home to two Tribal casinos and more than 30 commercial gaming venues, opened up sports betting statewide in November 2019. The state just recently approved the first seven licenses to begin offering sports wagering on May 1st. 

Sovereignty allows the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe to proceed with retail sports betting operations without applying for a license. The Tribal compacts with the state empower them to offer Class III gaming, including sports betting, on their reservations — given it’s available throughout Colorado.

It remains to be seen if Tribally owned retail sports books will be up and running by May 1st as well — when seven of the state’s commercial gaming venues have the green light to begin taking wagers. 

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe has stated its intent to open a sports betting facility at its Ute Mountain Casino, near Towaoc, 10 miles south of Cortez. Nicki Green, a Tribal attorney, previously said that Tribal officials were exploring several gaming firms to outsource the operation. The management contract would require submission for National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) approval. 

READ MORE: Simermeyer Outlines NIGC Bulletin on Sports Books 

The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has not publicly commented on whether it not it will open a retail sports betting operation at its Sky Ute Casino & Lodge near Ignacio, 25 miles southeast of Durango. 

Of the 28 applications from commercial gaming venues for licenses to operate retail sportsbooks that Colorado’s Limited Gaming Commission received, seven were recently approved to launch on May 1st or after: four in Cripple Creek, two in Black Hawk, and one in Central City. All three dozen of Colorado’s commercial casinos are situated in those three mountain gaming towns. 

Applying cost the operators $10,000; upon license approval, those commercial casinos must pay a $125,000 fee. Colorado’s sports betting market for commercial venues is taxed at 10 percent. The licenses include an online betting component, bound by state borders. Whether or not Tribes can partake in state-wide mobile betting without a license remains unknown, as currently the right to offer Class III gambling is legal within their reservation borders. 

Meanwhile the commission is vetting more applications “to make sure those that want to operate on May 1 can do so,” Suzi Karrer, a spokesperson for the Department of Revenue’s Division of Gaming, told Westworld Friday. 

While those seven commercial casinos will be the first to introduce retail sports betting in the state, other commercial casinos have taken initiative to partner already with sports book providers, such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetAmerica, Circuit Sports, etc.