Colorado has around 40 casinos, which is more than most states, but it is structurally limited by housing them in just three towns.
That fact resulted in the state ranking in the middle of the pack of US states in terms of casino economic impact, according to a recent American Gaming Association survey.
The survey said Colorado casinos generated more than $1.8 billion of economic impact annually as of Dec. 31, 2022. While not an amount to scoff at, it did lead to Colorado being ranked 23rd compared to other states.
Colorado 5th in number of casinos in state
Colorado is home to nearly four dozen commercial casinos, which are all in three towns: Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. That geographical restriction results in its casino market coming up middle of the pack in many categories. Online casinos in Colorado are illegal.
The only two casinos not in those three towns are two tribe-owned facilities tucked into the southwest corner of Colorado. One is in Towaoc near Cortez (Ute Mountain Casino); the other is an hour away in Ignacio, south of Durango (Sky Ute Casino).
Those 42 gambling establishments put Colorado into a tie with Washington for fifth most casinos in the country. The disparity between total number of casinos in Colorado and overall economic impact is stark. It’s because most operations are smaller in scale than the destination resorts found in most states.
Commercial casinos in Colorado accounted for $1.66 billion of economic impact, while tribal casinos added $148.9 million. According to the AGA survey, the casinos took home $1.41 billion of revenue in the process.
Here are how the top 10 states stacked up for economic impact along with the number of casinos they house, according to the AGA survey:
- Nevada: $55.96 billion economic impact; 220 casinos
- California: $19.96 billion; 85 casinos
- Oklahoma: $9.8 billion; 142 casinos
- Florida: $7.55 billion; 15 casinos
- New York: $6.55 billion; 31 casinos
- New Jersey: $6.45 billion; 9 casinos
- Pennsylvania: $6.34 billion; 16 casinos
- Michigan: $6.28 billion; 26 casinos
- Louisiana: $6.13 billion; 24 casinos
- Washington: $5.39 billion; 35 casinos
Colorado casinos fall behind in jobs supported and tax impact
Colorado also came out in the middle of the pack in both jobs supported and tax impact from casino gambling.
The Colorado casino market supports 10,842 jobs, which ranks as No. 24 compared to other states. Colorado generated $403.5 million of tax impact, ranked it at No. 24 in the country, according to the survey.
Here are the top 10 states for tax impact from casinos along with the number of jobs casinos support:
- Nevada: $8.27 billion tax impact, 410,456 jobs supported
- California: $3.45 billion; 124,274 jobs
- Pennsylvania: $2.48 billion; 33,171 jobs
- New York: $2.03 billion; 25,784 jobs
- Oklahoma: $1.69 billion; 75,885 jobs
- Florida: $1.56 billion; 54,142 jobs
- Louisiana: $1.5 billion; 40,919 jobs
- Michigan: $1.3 billion; 37,911 jobs
- New Jersey: $1.19 billion; 39,007 jobs
- Washington: $768.9 million; 35,044 jobs
Colorado residents prefer limited gambling in state
In 1990, Colorado voters approved Amendment 4, which allowed limited-stakes gaming in just the three mountain towns. A vote to add casinos in the small, western town of Parachute was soundly defeated a few years after Amendment 4 was approved. Recently, residents voted to allow high-stakes gambling in those towns.
Those towns have limited space for new development. That geographic restriction has kept the Colorado casino market from expanding its footprint much in the Centennial State. Without the ability to add a casino in Denver or another more populated area, the market has stagnated.
Furthermore, the rise of mobile sports wagering has led to many choosing to bet on sports from their homes as opposed to heading to the casino to use its sportsbook.
One way to combat the slipping Colorado casino market is to legalize online casinos, but no real effort has been made to do that. It could become an issue, however, when the Colorado Legislature reconvenes in January.