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Colorado Sticks to May 1 Sports Betting Launch Despite Coronavirus

by Dan Katz

Fingers crossed for the original sports betting launch date

The first day it will be legal for sports betting to go live in Colorado is May 1st, and that is still the date that state regulators are hoping to hit. The big question mark is the obvious: will casinos re-open in time to hit that target date?

On Thursday, March 19th, the state shut down all casinos, horse tracks, and scores of other non-essential facilities to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. During the current pandemic, “social distancing” is one of the primary ways to slow the virus’s spread and naturally, staying out of casinos will help.

In a public web conference on Thursday, Dan Hartman said that everyone is still operating as if May 1st will be the launch date when it comes to licensing and other preparations.

As far as the possibility of pushing things back, he said, “Those discussions certainly will happen later on, probably in April as this COVID crisis moves forward and we see where the casino industry is at, at this time.”

Al Sharpton wants state to protect workers

One person who wants Colorado to pump the brakes on sports betting is civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton. He is specifically concerned with the effect job loss resulting from the coronavirus pandemic will affect service industry workers, many of whom are “low-income and from communities of color.”

In a letter to Governor Jared Polis and the members of the Colorado Division of Gaming, Sharpton said:

“Out-of-state hedge funds with long records of mass firings and shady dealings have come into the state to capitalize on mobile sports betting and based on their track record—middle class workers and minorities will be the first to be negatively impacted. My job is to spot those problems before they occur and to speak up about them before it’s too late.”

The company Sharpton is pointing the finger at is Twin River, which acquired the Golden Gates, Golden Gulch, and Mardi Gras casinos this year. Twin River itself is owned by hedge fund manager Soohyung Kim. Sharpton said that Kim has a history of corporate acquisitions followed by mass layoffs, citing Radio Shack and American Apparel.

As for Twin River:

“Twin River has time and time again operated with only the bottom line in mind. In 2017, Twin River announced it would slash healthcare benefits for workers, which tripled out-of-pocket costs for certain employees, just weeks after Massachusetts cleared the way in 2017 for the company to open a new casino in Tiverton. That same year, they threatened to layoff staff and replace them with private contractors, and to cut the remainders’ healthcare benefits.”

Sharpton warns that Kim could do similar things to Colorado casino employees and wants casino workers and people of color to be considered in any state coronavirus stimulus package.

Licensing speeding forward

A total of 31 companies have received a sports betting license of some form so far. There are five types of licenses: Master, Sports Betting Operator, Internet Sports Betting Operator, Vendor Major, and Vendor Minor. The operators currently licensed for casino gaming in Colorado are the ones eligible to apply for a Master license. Twin River was granted three Master licenses on Thursday.

Sports Betting Operators and Internet Sports Betting Operators can contract with the Master licensees.

The state will collect a 10 percent tax on net sports betting proceeds.

Interestingly, the sports betting law does not put any cap on the size of bets. The casinos in Colorado actually offer what’s called “limited gaming.” One of those limits is a $100 cap on wagers. Sports betting operators must, however, submit to regulators additional controls it will implement for accepting wagers above $10,000.

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