Table games are finally back at some Colorado casinos.
But, so far, only in Gilpin County.
That means casinos in the gaming towns of Black Hawk and Central City may resume blackjack, craps, poker and roulette. However, the county casinos must follow specific rules, including the stipulation that only dealers may touch cards in blackjack.
Previously, casinos in Colorado were limited to only slot machines.
Along with the return of table games, casinos can opt to increase customers capacity from 175 to 500.
Table games return could have big economic impact
The return of table games is a pivotal moment — for the casinos, the players, the gaming towns, the county and the workers.
Since casinos reopened in June, table games have not been allowed. Gilpin County first tried to get table games allowed in July. As of late August, table games were still a no-go for Colorado casinos.
The wait is finally over.
In fact, some of the casinos in Black Hawk and Central City had table games on Friday.
One of them is Monarch Casino and Resort.
As David Farahi, the Monarch COO and president of the Colorado Gaming Association (CGA), said to PlayColorado, the return of table games had an “immediate” impact.
As for why this is so crucial, Farahi said:
“Two big answers. Obviously, table games are our second-biggest profit center. But it’s also one of the departments with the most number of team members. So, we didn’t lay off anybody during the shutdown, but we still had our table games team furloughed. So, being able to get, in our case, 100 people back to work was a big deal.”
How many employees could return to work in Gilpin County as a result?
“We’re talking over a thousand people,” Farahi said.
Protect Our Neighbors phase
Why are table games returning to Gilpin County casinos?
Gilpin is one of the five counties to graduate into the third and final phase of the COVID-19 protection measures. The order is from Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CPDHE).
According to the CPDHE website, this final phase is described as:
“Protect Our Neighbors means that communities that meet certain criteria have less stringent restrictions than under ‘Stay at Home’ and ‘Safer at Home.’ Strong local public health and health care systems are the key to reopening the economy.”
Next step in return to normalcy
Gilpin County Commissioner Gail Watson has laid out how vital table games are to the county and getting the residents back to work. Watson said that half of the county’s residents work at the casinos. The conundrum comes from having casinos roar back to life in as safe an environment as possible.
This is the next step in a long journey back to normal, especially economically.
As Watson said:
“For Gilpin County having the casinos get back to normal is incredibly important. We’re very dependent on this industry. It’s been brutal with the closures. We’ve had to layoff 79 employees, close the community center (and) reduce all departments. It’s been very difficult. We are looking forward to our industry getting back to work, and folks coming up and playing safely.”
If you sense a tinge of excitement and relief from all involved, you’re correct.
This is great news, and that’s been hard to come by for casinos in Colorado since mid-March. It’s also the closest that casinos and workers have come to normalcy since then.
According to Dan Hartman, the director of the Colorado Division of Gaming:
“As the state safely moves forward, we are looking forward to this measured step to begin the industry’s return to normal. The division will continue to work with the industry, state and county health departments ensuring the safest gaming environment in which patrons can enjoy these expanded options.”
What about Teller County?
Teller County, which is home to Cripple Creek, filed a casino-specific variance request to reopen table games and return to 24/7 alcohol service.
According to a spokesperson with CPDHE:
“Teller County has indicated an interest in opening their gaming tables. We are working with local officials to determine if that’s feasible. We will provide more information when it becomes available.”
Marc Dettenrieder, chairman of the Teller County Board of Commissioners, is hopeful that CDPHE approves the variance request and does so as soon as possible. As he said, time is of the essence.
“So much of the variance request process, in my mind, is to loosen restrictions and get more people back to work. There are too many casino employees that have seen a reduction in pay or have been furloughed due to COVID. Getting table games reopened will help change that. The more we open up, the more we can help periphery small businesses as well. The city of Cripple Creek has taken a huge, negative hit to their budget with the loss of gaming revenue. From the county perspective, our gaming tax revenues are down significantly compared to last year.”
Return of more customers
Casinos hope the return of table games also leads to the return of some households who have been absent, despite the availability of slots. In many cases, these households consist of couples who are split on the games they play — one person may prefer slots while the other prefers card games.
Since table games haven’t been allowed, those customers haven’t been going to casinos. That is a major reason why the return of table games could provide such a major economic jolt.
As Farahi said, casinos get their second-biggest profit center reopened, but also drive more play across the casino floor.
The wait is finally over. Table games are back at Colorado casinos.
According to Farahi:
“It was really exciting. It was all smiles on Thursday and Friday as we brought the team back. We were pretty unique where we COVID-tested our entire table games team. We wanted to get them tested and get the results back before we reopened on Friday and we were able to do that on Thursday. It brings a level of comfort, I think, to the team and for our guests and makes that much more enjoyable for everybody.”
“We are excited to have table games back even with limited seating available. Allowing for additional gaming revenues and bringing approximately 45 employees back to work is very exciting for Century Casino and Hotel Central City.”