DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s division that oversees sports betting is the latest state agency to distance itself from Russia nearly two weeks after the country waged war on Ukraine.
On Friday, the Colorado Division of Gaming announced it was suspending all Russian and Belarusian governing bodies, leagues, teams, players, and events from the Official Sports Betting Catalog of Events and Wagers.
The catalog contains every approved bet authorized by the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission.
“It was only a matter of time,” said Ian St. Clair, analyst with PlayColorado.com.
Since betting was legalized statewide in 2020, Coloradans have wagered billions of dollars both online and at sports books. A small piece of that pie has been from betting on several Russian and Belarusian leagues, including table tennis, which has had a grip on Colorado bettors since early on in the pandemic.
“We didn’t have Major League Baseball, there wasn’t NBA or NHL playoffs,” said St. Clair.
Two years later, table tennis’ popularity still stumps St. Clair, who said it consistently ranks in the top ten sports bet on in Coloradans.
“Colorado has wagered $181.7 million on table tennis,” St. Clair said. “It’s been one of those interesting scenarios where people can’t explain it.”
Now, those offerings won’t be found at sportsbooks or within betting apps around Colorado. Dan Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming, said the decision to suspend betting on Russian and Belarusian teams was a “logical step” as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.
“The conflict that’s going on there was going to have an effect anyway, but this really is just standing with Ukraine,” Hartman said.
According to Hartman, any long-term bets on Russian or Belarusian sports made ahead of Friday will be cleared. In Colorado, the most frequent bets made involving teams from either country are in table tennis and hockey.
“We’ll see a little bit of a dip,” said Hartman. “The money that we get ultimately goes towards the water program and tax collection, but I don’t think you’re going to see a huge number. It’s kind of unknown at this point.”
Colorado’s decision comes as national sports books and major companies are taking similar actions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to Hartman, the Division of Gaming will look at lifting the suspension on betting when things are closer to normal in Ukraine and other sanctions are lifted.
“In the long scheme of things, it’s not going to be that big of an impact on the state, it’s just going to be one of those things where will this finally be the end of table tennis?” asked St. Clair.