Anxious Colorado Casinos Continue To Play The Waiting Game

Written By Ian St. Clair on 06/03/2020 - Last Updated on May 27, 2022

Colorado casinos are anxious and frustrated.

They’re losing money by the second.

Their employees are out of work.

They want to know when they can reopen for business after being closed for almost three months.

Yet even as dozens of casinos start to reopen across the country, all Colorado casinos can do is wait for the “go” signal from state leaders.

Until that happens, preparations continue for the day they can safely, and finally, reopen again.

That’s not much of a change since March 17, when casinos in the state were forced to shutter out of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t look now, but there could finally be some light at the end of this dark tunnel for Colorado casinos.

Colorado casinos are ready for a decision

At his daily news conference on Tuesday (June 2), Gov. Jared Polis promised an update soon on variances that would allow casinos to reopen in Gilpin and Teller counties. Of course, that is under the condition they fulfill specific safety requirements.

It’s the best update yet from either the governor or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

“It is our hope that the (Polis) Administration conducts a swift review of the plan and allows the state’s 10,000 casino workers to get back to work as quickly as possible,” Monarch Casino and Resort Chief Operating Officer David Farahi told PlayColorado. “There are over 100 casinos that have reopened in more than a dozen states across the US today. We in Colorado are anxious to join them.”

Added Eric Rose, the vice president of operations for Century Casinos:

“Colorado is certainly behind most states as far as reopening casinos.”

Colorado casinos await variance approval

Before they’re able to reopen in the three gaming towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek, certain criteria must get met.

Government and business leaders there must first obtain a variance (essentially, an exemption) from the state’s “safer-at-home” restrictions. That decision ultimately rests with the CDPHE.

On Tuesday, CDPHE spokesman Ian Dickson confirmed to PlayColorado that Gilpin and Teller counties are pursuing the variance process at the state level.

“Unfortunately, we are unable to bring our team back to work until we have an approved date for reopening from the state,” Farahi said. “In the meantime, we continue to work on, and enhance, protocols to ensure the safety of our team members and guests.”

As for when those restrictions might lift, that remains uncertain.

“We have not heard anything directly from the state or CDPHE as far as a timeline and proposed reopening date,” Rose said to PlayColorado. “We are working with the local counties, casino operators, department of revenue, casino associations on guidelines in order to safely reopen as soon as possible.”

What do the CO casino safety plans look like?

When casinos do reopen to the public, they won’t look like they did in early March.

Casinos and the Colorado Gaming Association (CGA) have been working on a best practices policy since early May for employees and customers.

Now that Gilpin and Teller County have sent their variance requests to CDPHE, here’s what patrons can potentially expect the next time they step foot in a casino.

“Our current draft protocols include temperature checks for all team members, vendors and guests when entering the resort,” Farahi said. “All team members, vendors, and guests will wear masks or cloth face coverings while on property. To ensure social distancing, the property will limit occupancy and every other adjacent slot machine will be turned off. Hand sanitizer dispenser units will be placed at key guest and team member contact areas too.

“These are just a few of the items that our plans currently include. We are awaiting final guidance from CDPHE so we are sure to exceed state standards. In addition, we will be training our entire team in safety, sanitation and PPE prior to reopening. We will also be offering free COVID-19 testing for all of our team members prior to their return to work.”

What’s next for Colorado casinos?

The financial hit to the casinos, workers, cities, counties and state is one major reason this anxiety continues to bubble. There has been no money coming into Colorado casinos since March 17.

That’s simply astounding to consider.

Businesses cannot continue to operate in situations like that. And whenever economic figures are thrown out on the drastic blow to casinos, the lost income for workers is never discussed.

It was estimated in late May that Colorado casinos have lost $100 million in revenue through the end of April. And that was a “conservative” projection.

Positive outlook for Colorado gaming

But Colorado casinos remain hopeful the future remains bright.

“It has obviously been difficult without any revenues since March 17,” Rose said to PlayColorado. “We have limited our expenses and are managing costs under these unprecedented circumstances.

“We are anxious to reopen with health and safety for our customers and employees being the top priority. And we are optimistic about the future for Century and the Casino Industry in our regional markets.

Added Farahi:

“The last few months have been unprecedented and, frankly, challenging. But as we look to the future, we remain very excited for two reasons. First, Monarch is a great team and well equipped to get through this. Second, we can’t wait to unveil our soon to be opened resort, which will not only put 800 additional Coloradans to work, but will become a new favorite gaming destination for the state. At a time where people may be less inclined to fly, driving up to a new resort just 45 minutes from Denver is a pretty enticing proposition.”

To say Colorado casinos are ready for a decision on when they can finally reopen is a severe understatement.

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Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

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