Table Games Still A No-Go For Colorado Casinos

Posted on August 27, 2020 - Last Updated on January 18, 2021

Table games are still on hold.

Since Colorado casinos got the green light to reopen in mid-June, that’s been one of the stipulations.

At the time, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said it would revisit table games at casinos in “three weeks.”

Fast forward to the middle of July, when Gilpin County started the process to bring table games back. There was no official word at the time that Teller County had done so.

Before table games can return to casinos, both gaming counties must file a variance request with CDPHE. That’s essentially an exemption to the rule that limits table games.

But right around the time that Gilpin County was set to file its variance request, Gov. Jared Polis put a hold on such requests for two weeks.

No appetite for table games

Now in late August, not much has changed.

At the end of Thursday’s Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (CLGCC) meeting, Dan Hartman was asked about the state of table games.

Hartman is the director for the Colorado Division of Gaming.

He said he thinks both Gilpin and Teller counties have filed requests. But based on what Hartman has seen and heard from Polis’s office, there isn’t much of an appetite for table games at casinos in Colorado right now.

“But that discussion has not gone away,” Hartman said during the meeting. “It’s the proximity in the table games that I think the governor’s office and the health department still have a little bit of hesitancy with.”

When PlayColorado sought an update from CDPHE on variance requests in mid-August, it said it had resumed processing variances starting with local communities with low or no transmission.

Visit this page for a list of variance requests approved by the state so far.

As of Aug. 26, neither of the requests from Gilpin nor Teller counties had been approved.

Electronic push

At its Thursday meeting, the CLGCC approved various rule changes that could help in that area.

The rules apply to gaming tickets and electronic games, including making electronic betting similar to the physical table game versions.

The thought behind the rule changes is COVID-19 related. To help with social distancing and limiting contact between patrons and workers, and to help with the lack of table games at casinos.

As Hartman said during the meeting, the Division of Gaming and Colorado Gaming Association realize the importance of electronic functionality. Look no further than Colorado online sports betting the mobile sign-up process.

But the lack of games is a massive hit for the Colorado casinos. And not just from a customer standpoint. All of those table games dealers are still not back at work.

“I was very clear in what I sent over to the governor that it is not a replacement for table games,” Hartman said. “We still need table games. This industry needs them to move forward. We’ll just wait for the timing. I think that’s what we’re waiting for from them.”

Casino revenue loss continues

Gilpin County Commissioner Gail Watson gave a glimpse at how vital table games are for the gaming towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek.

As Watson said in July, and the case remains true now, there is a tug of war between the need to add table games while doing so safely for guests and workers.

“It’s a bit of a conundrum for us. It’s a difficult decision because we want everyone to be safe. Both our residents who work in the casinos and those who travel into the county to work at the casinos, as well as all of the visitors.

“At the same time, we are experiencing a disaster in terms of revenue loss. We had to close our parks and rec department, close our community center and lay off 79 people because of the impact from the casinos being closed for three months.”

At the time, Watson said the county was bracing for revenue shortfalls in June as well because of the lack of table games. Now at the end of August, they’re still on hold.

“We’re walking that tightrope between safety and revenue generation.”

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Ian St. Clair

Ian St. Clair is an award-winning sports journalist. He is a University of Northern Colorado graduate, Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. Ian does a segment each Saturday on Klahr and Kompany on Denver radio station ESPN 1600 AM.

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