Nuggets’ Title Run Sends Colorado Retail Sportsbooks Reeling

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The Joker helped make a fool out of Colorado‘s retail sportsbooks in June, as center Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets’ run to their first NBA title put a notable dent in both brick-and-mortar and overall sports wagering operator revenue totals for June.

The state’s Department of Revenue reported $9.2 million in gross revenue for the month, as the total basketball payouts of $68.8 million in winning tickets resulted in a staggering overall loss of $10.8 million from $57.9 million handle. It was the second straight June that Colorado sportsbooks posted a loss on NBA betting, but last year’s loss was much lighter at just over $788,000 from $44.1 million wagered.

Jokic, the NBA Finals MVP, averaged 30 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 9.5 assists in helping Denver go 16-4 in the postseason, including 4-1 in June. The Colorado Department of Revenue does not break out specific numbers by operators, but retail books finished with a loss of $674,061 on more than $2.4 million in accepted bets, while mobile operators had a paltry hold of 3.2%.

The overall win rate of just under 3% was the third-lowest in 38 months of wagering, ahead of only last June (2.2%) and September 2020 (2%). Despite the heavy losses in hoops — the largest single amount in any sport in state history — June’s total gross revenue actually represented a 36% year-over-year improvement, as bettors were able to cash on the Colorado Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup in 2022.

The total handle of $310.7 million was down 0.8% compared to June 2022, and the adjusted gross revenue of $2 million was a swing of $4 million in a positive direction. The state was able to claim nearly $442,000 in tax receipts, pushing the total above $12 million for the first six months of the year — nearly double the comparable period from last year.

Title run mirrors Nevada dynamic

Colorado sportsbooks were not the only ones to see a title run impact their bottom line in June. Their counterparts in neighboring Nevada absorbed a $6.6 million loss on hockey wagers as the Vegas Golden Knights completed their quest to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, also keeping total Silver State revenue below $10 million.

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There was some bleed-over in Colorado, as bettors appeared to jump on the Golden Knights’ bandwagon after the Avalanche were upset in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Year-over-year hockey handle in June plummeted 84.5% to nearly $4.6 million, but operators still had to pay out $763,000 above that amount while posting a -16.7% hold.

The other possible effect from the Nuggets winning the title was bettors could have parlayed it with other championship winners, including the Golden Knights and Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The overall parlay win rate for June was 13.5% — more than three percentage points below May, as the $9.4 million in gross revenue generated was a low for 2023 in that category.

Parlay handle was up 18.2% year-over-year to $69.7 million. Despite a low parlay hold by national standards, it was still enough for operators to more than double their revenue in the category from June 2022, when the win rate was an all-time low of 6.8%.

Where the house won

It was not all doom and gloom for operators, who claimed close to $4.5 million in baseball revenue while posting a 4.3% win rate. Tennis provided nearly $2 million in winnings, as operators notched a hold above 8% for the 10th straight month.

Soccer and golf also provided seven-figure windfalls, with the house posting its sixth straight win rate of 10.6% or better in the latter sport. Operators cleared $500,000 in revenue for the fourth straight month in table tennis and are within $275,000 of $20 million in all-time winnings from the wildly popular niche sport.


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