Moratorium On Skilled Games Extended In Grand Junction

Written By Phil West on 03/04/2024
Grand Junction has extended its moratorium on skilled games.

The Grand Junction City Council has extended a moratorium on skilled games, giving officials another year to figure out how to deal with the machines.

The moratorium prohibits opening new skilled gaming businesses in the city, and existing businesses are barred from moving inside the city. The moratorium in the largest city in Western Colorado was first put in place on Feb. 1, 2023.

City Attorney John Shaver told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that officials are not only struggling with where skilled games can operate in the city but also what exactly constitutes a skilled game.

“We are proposing an additional 12-month moratorium to continue the city’s effort to respond to the skilled gaming and what it means or doesn’t mean, where it should be, where it shouldn’t be in our community.”

Authorities said all ‘gray casinos’ in GJ were shut down last year

Businesses that house skilled games are called “gray casinos,” as they operate arcade-style games with money payouts but are not licensed as casinos. In Colorado, casinos are allowed only in the three mountain towns of Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City. There are also two tribal run casinos in the Southwest area of the state. Colorado online casinos are illegal.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office announced last October that all gray casinos in the Grand Junction area had been shut down. In 2018, state law was amended to make “gray machines” illegal. Despite that, several businesses across Colorado continued to operate businesses housing the machines.

In 2022, a law was enacted that gave authorities the ability to investigate and ultimately shutter the illegal businesses. City officials have expressed concerns about increased criminal activity should the businesses be allowed to operate within the city. Council Member Cody Kennedy, a former Grand Junction Police officer, told the Sentinel, “It’s certainly been, from my experience, a scourge.”

Shaver said the problem now is defining skilled machines as opposed to casino-style slot machines.

“What we found is that many of the machines were being operated really as games of chance, and that input of the skill is somewhat negligible, and the gaming commission is struggling, frankly, with what to do about it.”

Gaming businesses can also house other illegal activities

Last November, after closing five illegal businesses over the course of three months, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said the businesses also attract other criminal elements.

“These types of gaming establishments began popping up throughout Mesa County as far back as 2017, creating a complex and unexplored problem. Although many of them presented themselves as legitimate businesses, investigators discovered that not only were many of the gaming machines illegal, but these types of businesses were attracting large amounts of additional criminal activity.”

An officer on the scene at one of the busts, MCSO Sgt. Brian Eldridge, said neighboring businesses were ecstatic that authorities were finally shuttering the gray casinos.

“777 on North Avenue has been vacated and is officially no longer in operation. During our visit this afternoon, we were greeted by every surrounding business owner with compliments and celebration. It was humbling to watch them rejoice in reclaiming their piece of this wonderful county. The manager at the post office was brought to tears when we assisted the maintenance man/property owner by removing the window decals and sign, officially signifying to all that the location is no longer open for business.”

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Phil West

Phil West is an Austin-based writer and editor who has been published in a wide range of publications throughout his career, including the Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times,, The Striker, and The Daily Dot. He's currently writing about Austin FC (and more generally, about MLS and world soccer) at Verde All Day, an independent Substack-hosted and subscriber-supported site. He's also a Senior Lecturer in The Writing Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

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