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What college cancellations means for the future of sports betting in Colorado

Newly-opened gambling properties in the state feeling the blues after the Pac-12’s latest announcement to postpone sports in 2020

Laughlin Draws Gamblers to the Colorado River Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

2020 strikes again. It’s the common theme for the unpredictable year of the Covid-19 pandemic. The news of major college conferences putting sports on a hiatus until 2021 wasn’t a shocking development to those keeping up with current events.

What continues to be an unraveling story is the fallout with money tied into college athletics. One of the sectors with a stake in all of this is fairly new to the State of Colorado. Before the Supreme Court struck down “The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992” (PASPA) by a 6-3 decision in May of 2018, sports gambling was only legal in a few states including Nevada and New Jersey.

Colorado legalized sports gambling in November of last year, clearing the way for sports books in the state’s mountain casinos. Now that Colorado’s two major college conferences, the Pac-12 and Mountain West, said sports are a no-go in 2020, what does it mean for the business of sports betting? A significant loss from the outset.

According to Play Colorado, this year may be challenging for sports books in the state. “Whenever you lose about 35% of your football handle because they’re not going to play the season, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in it’s a pretty big punch to the gut,” Jay Kornegay, the executive vice president of operations at the Westgate SuperBook at Lodge Casino told Play Colorado. “However, we do believe a lot of that college football handle will be transplanted to the pro football side.”

Yet again, not all college football has been scrapped for 2020. The ACC, SEC and Big 12 have kept their current schedules, despite overwhelming evidence presented of the risks associated with playing a season. The ACC decided on an 11-game schedule for the 2020 season, consisting of 10 league games plus Notre Dame. The Big 12 will allow non-conference games in September before league play on Sept. 26, the day the SEC season is set to open.

The hope for Colorado’s sports books is normal consumer traffic for NCAA events can be redirected to the NFL, who will continue with plans to play in 2020.

“I think 70-80% of that will move to the pro side,” Kornegay continued, optimistic despite the circumstances. “Most of them are already playing the pro side, but I think they’ll play it even more so if there’s not a college football season; especially if the NFL expands their game days to include Saturdays.”

As for those who’ve placed future bets on college competitions, either postponed or canceled, will receive refunds accordingly.