Operator and regulator collaboration central to Colorado licensing success

Colorado has been a hotbed of activity since voters approved the adoption of retail and mobile sports betting in November 2019, at a 0.5 per cent margin, with the state subsequently going live on May 1, 2020.

High aspirations regarding The Centennial State were expressed from the outset, with many pinpointing a good size population and a high propensity of those associating with sports, despite a COVID curveball bringing uncertainty to all involved.

“Colorado has gone on and launched sports wagering right in the middle of a global pandemic, this is a testament to not only the regulatory body but the operators and all the stakeholders involved in the launch,” expressed Joe Bertolone, executive director of the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ international centre for regulation, on day one of the SBC Digital Summit North America.

“It’s also a testament to the power of sports wagering as it continues to roll across the nation, even with no or very few sports to book.”

Bertolone was joined on ‘Tackling Colorado – Best Practices to Licensing’ by Rhea Loney, director of compliance at Penn Interactive, Dan Hartman, director, division of gaming at the Colorado Department of Revenue and Charles LeBoy, VP of compliance at Roar Digital, as the event entered full flow.

“We launched May 1 with sports betting and is was certainly a difficult time to decide whether we were going to go or whether we weren’t going to go because of the timing,” Hartman said of the indecision that took hold following the global health crisis.

After expressing relief that the launch contained both retail and online, the future prospects of the region were never in doubt as LeBoy proclaimed “We knew from the go that this would be a fabulous market for us”.

But what exactly did the Centennial State get so right that has had both US and European incumbents rushing to claim a piece of the action alongside one of 33 casinos situated across three mountain towns?

Loney heaped praise on the concerted effort undertaken by the authority to unite stakeholders in regulatory conversation early on through a series of workshops and roundtable discussions.

Organising meetings with operators as early as September 2019, which subsequently stepped up later in the year, the open discussions eventually welcomed 70 individuals from 50 different organisations and are lauded as leading the state with its set of permanent rules.

“I think I’ll put reasonable tax fees and licensing fees as one, I think that’s the first step to a competitive market,” Loney suggested when pressed on what best practices would be recommended to other regulators who are going through the process, or could be doing so in the future.

“And the second thing is that I think the working groups got us there, which is a set of regulations that protect the public, that are fair to operators and that operators understand what the expectations are out of those regulations and they’re clear and a process that we can follow.”

LeBoy on the other hand lauded a transparent process from start to finish as key to developing a key partnership that ensured regulatory success: “I think having a process and timelines that are well communicated to people, that if there are particular deadlines that that be made clear in advance, and to the extent possible having a go live date is very helpful to an operator when they are trying align multiple processes to a particular date.

“And two, just the collaborative nature of working with the regulator and operator whether it’s just providing feedback on the initial set of rules to the whole journey from someone looking to submit to actually getting live. I see that as a partnership between both the operator and the regulator, and the better that that partnership works the more successful an industry you’ll have in the end.”   

SBC Digital Summit North America recreates many of the key features of a physical trade show, providing attendees with an opportunity to learn, make new connections, and view the latest products from the comfort of their own home or office.

Running alongside the conference content is a program of themed networking sessions, while attendees will also have further opportunities to connect at workshops and in the 20-booth interactive exhibition hall where major international suppliers will showcase their latest innovations.

SBC Digital Summit North America is running this week July 14-16. To register or obtain more information visit the event’s official website.