Sky Ute Casino Resort became the first Native American tribal casino to launch a sports betting app, bringing its Sky Ute SportsBook online this week.
Amanda Hopkins, director of marketing at Sky Ute Casino Resort, said the first wagers were taken Tuesday after a soft launch earlier this month with trial bets made among casino employees.
“We’re excited. It’s a whole new revenue stream for us,” she said.
While the app can be downloaded anywhere, bets can be placed only if your smartphone’s GPS system is on and you are physically located within the state of Colorado, Hopkins said.
Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio and Ute Mountain Ute Casino in Towaoc both gained the ability to offer sports books at their casinos and launch mobile sports betting apps open to people in the state of Colorado when voters in November 2019 passed Proposition DD legalizing sports betting in the state.
Sky Ute Casino sees Colorado sports betting as appealing not only to 5.75 million residents, many of whom are avid sports fans, but also to the more than 85 million tourists the state attracts annually, Hopkins said.
Gamblers will be able to create a betting fund in the app, and if a bet pays off, their betting fund will be credited with their winnings, Hopkins said.
US Bookmaking, a Las Vegas-based firm has been hired to manage the sports app and the coming bricks-and-mortar sports book at the casino. It will set odds and handle the operation’s risk management, Hopkins said.
Financial details of the arrangement between Sky Ute Casino Resort and US Bookmaking are propriety and will not be released, said Charley Flagg, general manager at Sky Ute Casino Resort.
Flagg said federal law upholds tribes’ right not to disclose financial matters of its gaming operations.
He did say the casino is unsure how many wagers will be made through the app as the venture is so new.
“We’re competing against some pretty heavy hitters that are operating out of the mountain towns. I know that the state published that the sports book for those that they regulate had a $25.5 million handle in May – now that does not include any deductions for taxes, pay-outs, etc. I think we can probably give you some generalizations after we’ve been operating for a month or so. Maybe we might even have some sports to bet on in the near future,” he said in an email.
With most sports currently on hiatus, sports books across the country are reduced to taking bets on mixed-martial arts fights, German soccer leagues and other sporting pursuits that are relatively obscure in the Untied States.
Efforts to reach the National Indian Gaming Commission to get details about the new Sky Ute SportsBook and Sky Ute Casino Resort’s physical sports book were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Before COVID-19 restrictions intervened forcing its closure, Hopkins said the casino, which is owned by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, had planned to open a physical sports book at the casino by May 1.
Originally, the app was to be launched in conjunction with the bricks-and-mortar sports book at Sky Ute Casino Resort.
Efforts to launch the mobile betting app were accelerated with the arrival of COVID-19 and the forced closure of the casino.
Sky Ute still intends to open a physical sports book operation at Sky Ute when the casino reopens.
Currently, the casino is closed and no date for reopening has been announced, Hopkins said.
Remodeling was underway at the casino to prepare for a sports book when COVID-19 hit and temporarily ceased work, Hopkins said.
The casino plans to take the 49 Lounge out of the Rolling Thunder Bar and make the 49 Lounge a sports viewing area to be located next to its physical sports book at Sky Ute Casino Resort.
When Sky Ute reopens it will have two self-serve betting kiosks, but eventually, the sports book will expand with a betting window and a video wall with multiple TVs. The 49 Lounge will serve as a sports lounge.
Hopkins said advertising for Sky Ute Casino Resort has expanded beyond the Four Corners to take in the Denver-metro area in order to lure sports fans on the populated Front Range.
Sky Ute will also be active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms advertising its Sky Ute SportsBook, Hopkins said.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe had announced plans to open a sports book at its Ute Mountain Casino in Towaoc by May 1.
However, efforts to reach the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
On Nov. 5, 2019, Colorado became the 19th state to allow sports betting after voters narrowly approved Proposition DD, 712,405 to 692,377.
Voters in Montezuma and La Plata counties rejected DD.
In La Plata County, DD was rejected with 8,414 voters opposing it and 8,368 supporting. In Montezuma County, 5,204 voters rejected DD and 3,118 supported it.