By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4) – As many sports wait out the coronavirus pandemic, Colorado sports betting will start on Friday. In November 2019, voters narrowly approved a tax that casinos would pay on the sports betting winnings to fund water projects across the state.

“There was going to be a home Rockies game and the Kentucky Derby was going to be this Saturday so there was going to be this great rollout of sports betting here in Colorado. But now we’re in a new world,” said state Rep. Alec Garnett, who helped push the bipartisan legislation forward last legislative session. “Life is different without sports. So it’s a different type of launch, but the point is the Division of Gaming deserves a tremendous amount of credit for working with the regulated entities. I believe it’s going to protect consumers, most importantly.”

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A handful of apps will launch on Friday that will allow anyone inside Colorado, residents and visitors, to gamble on sports. But the selection because of COVID-19 is limited. More apps and live-sportsbooks are expected to come online as casinos are allowed to reopen after the pandemic.

ping pong

(credit: iStock / Getty Images)

“Table tennis is our most popular. So people are betting and playing a lot of ping pong internationally in particular. There’s international soccer, there’s darts. And what we’ve actually done is gone out and found the streaming rights for most of those sports. So you can watch it live in our app and bet while it’s happening,” said Mike Raffensperger the Chief Marketing Officer of FanDuel Group.

(credit: iStock / Getty Images)

“We’re going to celebrate the launch of Colorado with futures offers for all of the hometown heroes. The next game the Broncos play we’re going to offer the spread market at plus-30. So we feel like that’s a pretty good deal. A way we’re going to eagerly await the return of sports alongside all the fans in Colorado.”

On May 9, a slate of German soccer returns, as well as a UFC event. But with limited sports, the money meant to help Colorado’s water issues is likely to see just a trickle of revenue. Garnett says this is about a long-term solution.

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“At some point the world is going to come back and sports are going to come back,” he said. “Having some kind of dedicated revenue stream should be a sigh of relief to the conservation community. It’s not going to be what solves all the problems that are out there. And it might just start as a trickle, but it will be there forever. It’s going to provide some relief to the conservation projects that need to happen through the Colorado water plan in order for us to catch up with the 21st century.”

FanDuel is available in four other states. The company offers betting on reality television and will launch a free-to-play game with cash rewards.

“For sports fans and people used to sports gaming, whether that’s friendly bets with their friends, or fantasy sports, office pools, it’s a communal fun experience that helps enrich watching sports. I think that people stuck at home looking for an entertaining diversion, I think we’re excited about the role that we play,” said Raffensperger.

Garnett says the bi-partisan model in Colorado has been looked at and will likely be adopted in other states as sports betting becomes more widely implemented across the country. He’s also wishing he could be betting on more Colorado teams right now.

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“If you want to put $5 here or there you can. I think tomorrow, I’m planning on trying to make the first bet. I plan to put $10 on the over of the Broncos total wins, which I think is at 7-and-a-half,” he said.

Jeff Todd