Mountain Towns Being Hit Particularly Hard By Casino Industry Stoppage

Written By Taylor Osieczanek on 03/25/2020 - Last Updated on April 7, 2020
Colorado casino closed open

The recent announcement by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has the gaming communities of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek concerned. Gov. Polis said all casinos, bars, restaurants, gyms and other large gathering places in the state would be shut down for 30 days due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

All three rely heavily on gaming to fuel their local economies.

“It’s going to have a tremendous impact because gaming is really the city’s lifeblood,” Paul Harris, Cripple Creek’s finance director and interim city administrator, told The Denver Post.  

But, casinos in Black Hawk received some good news as the city is waiving nearly $700,000 in casino fees according to

A national problem

Casinos across the country are being hit hard, according to American Gaming Association President and CEO Bill Miller. He said more than 600,000 casino employees are unable to work as 95% of the country’s 465 commercial casinos are currently shuttered.

In a statement, Miller said, “These mass closures will rob the US economy of $43.5 billion in economic activity if American casinos remain closed for the next eight weeks.”

Las Vegas not immune

In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all casinos closed for 30 days starting Friday, March 20, much to the disappointment of Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. Goodman called for an eight- to 10-day shutdown.

“I know we, and they, cannot survive any total shutdown of the economy for any length of time beyond the immediate week or two,” Goodman said.

Michigan casinos ask the state for help

Three of the biggest casinos in Michigan — the MGM Grand, MotorCity and Greektown — are asking the state government for a bailout.

The three plan on paying all of their employees through the end of March. However, without a bailout, that might be all that they can afford.

Will sports betting come to the rescue for Colorado?

With sports wagering in Colorado set to go live May 1 and the state’s fairly liberal betting rules, the change could provide some much needed economic relief as soon as pro and college sports resume play.

An issue that has long hampered gaming in Colorado is its betting limits. Colorado and South Dakota are the only states that cap bets with Colorado’s current limit at $100.

Not only will sports betting not have limits, but Colorado will also allow mobile betting throughout the state. Several states don’t allow mobile wagering, while others require bettors to be on the casino’s property.

Add in the fact that neighboring states Utah, Wyoming and Oklahoma do not have legalized sports betting and it’s safe to assume bettors will drive across the state line in order to place wagers.

No limits and more games?

Meanwhile, Cripple Creek Mayor Bruce Brown submitted a proposed ballot initiative in January that, if passed, would allow the three towns to decide to raise or eliminate all betting limits. The initiative also would allow more games to be played. Currently, only poker, blackjack, craps, roulette and slot machines are permitted in Colorado.

Brown hopes that with more games to choose from and no limits on bets, Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek would become more prominent destinations.

In the meantime, all casino employees can do is wait and hope they’re allowed to reopen and return to work by mid-April.

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