COVID-19 Spike Shuts Down Table Games in Colorado
Posted on: November 16, 2020, 01:39h.
Last updated on: November 16, 2020, 10:20h.
All table game action in Colorado has been killed as part of new measures to repel a surge of coronavirus cases, The Colorado Springs Gazette reports. This comes ten days after residents voted to allow casino towns to raise per-hand betting limits.
Casinos in Gilpin County were without blackjack, craps, and other table games this weekend. The region has moved into “Safer at Home” status, the middle level of the state’s three-tiered approach to coronavirus restrictions. Gilpin County includes two of Colorado’s three mountain gambling towns, Black Hawk and Central City.
Table games in the state’s other gambling town, Cripple Creek, have not reopened since its casinos were initially locked down last March. Officials in Teller County, which includes Cripple Creek, are currently considering measures that would close casinos completely.
Hospitals Under Pressure
The “Safer at Home” tier prohibits table games and reduces the capacity of each enclosed area of a casino from 500 to 100. It also bans alcohol sales after 11 pm. The measures come as cases in Gilpin County reached 32.2 per 100,000 people last week, with the percentage of positive tests hitting 2.65 percent.
About 22,000 new cases of the virus were reported across the state last week, while reports suggest 24 percent of Colorado hospitals face staffing shortages in the coming days.
“With case counts skyrocketing in Gilpin and across the state, what we have is far better than being closed again,” Ron Engels, a Gilpin County commissioner, told the Gazette. The casinos “have divided their gaming floors in several enclosed indoor spaces (increasing the casino’s overall capacity), such that they are able to afford the overhead to stay open.”
Raise the Stakes
Stock surged for gaming companies like Century Casinos and Full House Resorts after election day, when voters approved Amendment 77. This allows residents of Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek to decide whether to remove the $100 cap on maximum stakes for table games without the need for a statewide referendum. The measure also allows the gambling towns to introduce new games that were previously prohibited at their casinos, such as baccarat.
Last year, table games represented 13 percent of gross gaming revenue (GGR) in Black Hawk, and just 8 percent in Cripple Creek. That’s compared with averages of 20 percent to 25 percent in similar regional markets.
The casinos were hit hard by the pandemic, as were the local communities that rely on casino taxes. It is hoped the new measures will boost revenues while increasing travel and tourism jobs in those communities. The measures also give local residents more control of gambling in their cities.