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The First Legal Sports Bet in Colorado: Which League Will Return to Play First?

Sports gambling is now legal in Colorado, but with no games to bet on, we had to get creative. Here are our wagers as to when local sports teams will be back.

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May 1 marks the first day of legal sports gambling in Colorado. But when the measure to legalize such betting passed in November, no one expected this anticlimactic beginning. Local Colorado casinos—like those in Blackhawk—have partnered with apps like BetMGM and DraftKings, but the major American sports leagues are completely frozen thanks to the pandemic, so there aren’t too many bets to place right now.

The live sports currently available for gambling consist of sparse random overseas offerings, like competitive table tennis in Moscow or webcam darts competitions. You can still bet on hypotheticals—the Broncos have the 25th best odds to win the Super Bowl, while the Colorado Avalanche are tied for the second-best odds to win the Stanley Cup—but we just don’t know when leagues will start playing again.

If you’re like us, though, you probably miss sports. A lot. So, to celebrate the beginning of legal betting, here’s a rough handicap of each local team’s chance to play the next game representing the state (odds are based on best guesses when looking at the current sports landscape).

Colorado Rockies: 3/1

Baseball has ready-made locations with spring training facilities and flexibility because the season has not begun.

Already this spring, Coors Field lost Opening Day and Larry Walker’s jersey retirement ceremony. Baseball is most likely to come back because the window for playing—April to October— is so wide. Major League Baseball also appears open to several options—including temporary division realignment. It seems most likely that baseball resumes in Arizona, where many teams—including the Rockies—have spring training facilities. However, larger plans include playing games in multiple cities around the country, potentially without crowds.

Our bet: July 1

Denver Broncos: 4/1

The NFL has the ability to be flexible because they play in the fall and teams only play games once a week.

The NFL maintains that its season will start on time in September. A truncated offseason is possible with the Denver Broncos slated for late-July training camp. Details on the NFL’s plans, including locations, are vague. Because TV revenue covers so much of NFL salaries, they’re fine just putting football back on the air. Broncos fans are eagerly anticipating a hopefully revitalized offense led by quarterback Drew Lock and first-round pick Jerry Jeudy. The NFL’s fall start is also a huge advantage, as the league can track the starting attempts of other sports.
Our bet: September 13 (proposed opening Sunday)

Denver Nuggets: 5/1

The NBA is on solid financial footing and can be flexible when it comes to the coronavirus. They will do what they can to finish the season, but could ultimately decide to wait until next year.

Before the suspension of the season, the Denver Nuggets sat third in the Western Conference with hopes of a deep playoff run. The NBA is happy to play anywhere, but could survive if they canceled the rest of the current season because of the level of cooperation between the owners and the players on financial issues. The most popular option on the table for continuing this season appears to be Disney World. The Orlando Magic have played on the property, and the players could sequester in Disney hotels. The NBA proposals on the table include bringing all teams back to finish the regular season or skipping straight to the playoffs.
Our bet: July 15

Colorado Avalanche: 6/1

The NHL is in a place financially where they need to finish out the regular season, but are not as well-organized as other leagues, which could jeopardize their attempts. They are likely to follow the NBA’s lead.

The Colorado Avalanche were battling for the top spot in the Western Conference before the coronavirus. The NHL feels pressure to return because a large percentage of its revenue is earned during the playoffs. So the league is looking at neutral sites in multiple cities, with the Avalanche most likely to play in Minnesota because of the availability of rinks. The NHL’s seven Canadian teams (compared to just one in both the MLB and NBA) will result in more logistical hurdles. Historically, the NHL stumbles in these situations compared to the NBA—the commissioner and players have a more hostile relationship and the NHL cannot negotiate the large TV deals that the NBA can.
Our Bet: August 1

Colorado Rapids: 20/1

Major League Soccer relies heavily on revenue from fans. It seems unlikely they will figure out the economics of playing this year.

The Colorado Rapids were 2–0 before the season’s postponement. However, it’s going to be a tough road back for the local soccer club. The in-game experience is key for Major League Soccer because of relatively small TV revenue. The MLS is currently arguing with the players union over salary cuts, but those cuts won’t cover the expected losses without ticket revenue.
Our Bet: February 2021

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