Monarch Casino’s Grand Opening Has Been a Decade in the Making

Written By Ken Pomponio on 03/04/2022 - Last Updated on March 5, 2022
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Years of renovation and expansion are complete.

And now it’s time to celebrate the occasion by showing off the final product.

Monarch Casino Resort Spa is doing just that this March.

Black Hawk and Central City’s largest casino/resort has put out the welcome mat for a monthlong celebration. 

It’s a grand opening — years after the initial opening.

The Monarch staff offered a preview Thursday by hosting a progressive dinner and tour of the property. The tastes and sights were equally impressive.

The resort’s four restaurants, featuring the new Bistro Mariposa, are now fully open.

So is the BetMonarch Sportsbook and Lounge.

On Monarch’s 60,000-square-foot gaming floor, Colorado’s no-limit gaming policy continues to be a boon for business.

There’s a definite Las Vegas Strip resort vibe in the air.

And also some champagne toasts — from 4-6 p.m. each Friday on the casino floor.

“It’s a project that’s really been years in the making, and it’s something the entire company is proud of,” Erica Ferris, the Monarch’s director of marketing, said Thursday. “We’ve shown Colorado and Black Hawk that we’re committed to be a strong local company.”

New look has been in works since 2013

The Monarch renovations began in 2013 — two years after Reno-based Monarch Casino & Resort Inc., purchased the former Riviera Casino, located at 488 Main St. in Black Hawk.  

The $400 million upgrade and expansion project has continued in stages ever since. 

February 2017 brought groundbreaking on the main phase. 

At that time, construction began on the Monarch’s casino and 23-story hotel, which now boasts 516 rooms.

Additionally, the casino/gaming space was effectively doubled. And the old parking garage was demolished, making way for the current structure, which more than tripled the number of on-site parking spaces.

2020’s onset of the COVID-19 pandemic hit retail gaming establishments particularly hard. Colorado’s casinos certainly weren’t spared.

The Monarch was closed for 92 days in 2020. Gilpin County, heavily dependent on gaming tax revenues, suffered through some down, dark months.

But the doors have opened back up and the retail casino industry has rebounded.

There was a pandemic pause, but it certainly didn’t halt the Monarch’s expansion plans. 

In November 2020, the Monarch Chophouse opened. Specializing in steaks and seafood, including delectable Chilean sea bass, the Chophouse also features 150-plus wine offerings.

 The final expansion phases have hit the finish line in recent months.

The BetMonarch Sportsbook and Lounge opened in mid-December. 

And Bistro Mariposa followed suit in February, offering southwestern fare ranging from taco plates to larger entrees.

Bistro Marisposa joins the Chophouse, the appropriately named Twenty-Four 7 restaurant and the ever-expansive variety of The Buffet, giving Monarch customers four distinct dining options.

It’s also boosted the resort’s staff roster. 

“With our expansion, we’ve created some excellent employment opportunities. And we’re continuing to hire for a variety of positions,” Ferris said.

Bistro Mariposa opened in February. Photo by Ken Pomponio

Monarch gaming going strong

The Monarch casino now boasts more than 1,000 electronic games, including slot machines and video poker, and 40 table games. The latter range from the ever-popular black jack, craps and roulette to three-card poker and golden frog baccarat.

Fourteen tables can be found in Monarch’s poker room. There’s also no-limit action on everything from Texas Hold ‘Em to Omaha Hi-Low.

Even after casinos reopened in 2020, table games remained on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions.

They came back for good in February of 2021. And another major boost followed three months later. 

No-limit and expanded table games were effectively given the green light with the passage of Amendment 77 by Colorado voters in November 2020.

That went into effect in May of last year, and the impact certainly has been noticeable.

“It’s definitely had a positive impact,” Steven Zlobin, the Monarch’s director of gaming, said Thursday. “It allowed the local jurisdictions in the state to take control of setting the gaming limits, and it’s allowed us to be more competitive and more attractive to the customers looking for those higher limits.”

Those higher available limits at the Monarch also were singled out and credited with helping drive record 2021 fourth quarter revenue growth for parent Monarch Casino & Resort Inc.

“We continue to gain noticeable market share and attract high-value players from across Colorado’s Front Range, Monarch co-chairman and CEO John Farahi said last month. “(These are players) who had previously traveled to other markets, such as Las Vegas, for a high-end casino entertainment experience.

“We remain extremely bullish on the trajectory of the property’s performance.”

Zlobin said things have gone well for the BetMonarch Sportsbook in its first three months. The Big Bowl Bash promo party on Super Bowl Sunday attracted a packed house with patrons watching the Los Angeles Rams best the Cincinnati Bengals on the sportsbook’s massive 22-foot monitor.

BetMonarch is not affiliated with a national sportsbook, Zlobin stressed, meaning the lines and odds are set in-house.

Those lines can be found at the third-floor sportsbook itself or on the BetMonarch app, available for iOS and android users.

Photo by Monarch Casino Resort Spa
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Ken Pomponio

Ken is a fourth-generation Coloradan and career sports journalist with more than 30 years covering the gamut from the preps to the pros. A lifelong Front Range resident and son of 1960s Denver Broncos season-ticket holders, he is a long-time sports betting enthusiast whose insight and passion shine through in his coverage at PlayColorado.

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