Colorado businesses have shut their doors to the public as COVID-19 continues to spread quickly from the state’s capital. This is proving to be a particular hardship for the state’s casinos and gaming establishments.
Gaming industry hit hard by COVID-19
It’s no secret that nearly every industry in Colorado is suffering hardships as COVID-19 makes its way across the state. The state’s gaming industry has been no exception. On March 17, Gov. Jared Polis ordered the temporary closure of Colorado’s casinos as part of an initiative to slow the spread of COVID-19. This move predates Gov. Polis’ larger initiative, which has shut down the majority of non-essential businesses across the state. The governor issued a Stay at Home Order pertaining to all residents in the state, which began on March 26.
In areas where COVID-19 has begun to spread, business that tend to attract large crowds, such as casinos and stadiums, run a particularly high risk of spreading the virus. As a result, these businesses have taken steps to keep their employees safe and secure.
Casinos follow Governor’s shutdown order
The appearance of COVID-19 across Colorado has started to attract more attention. The virus is moving farther away from the heavily trafficked areas of Denver and into other areas of the state, such as Mesa and Montezuma county.
The Montezuma County Public Health Department and Southwest Health System announced the county’s first positive case of COVID-19 on March 28. In response, the Ute Mountain tribal council mandated all gaming operations to be suspended to prevent further spread of the virus.
The business likely to be most affected by the tribal council’s order is the Ute Mountain Casino. Rick Sheer, general manager at Ute Mountain Casino, spoke to PlayColorado about what the Casino’s next steps are during this troubling time. Sheer explained that the casino is still operating its two travel centers and one of the largest diesel filling stations in the area while still complying with local curfews and guidance offered by the tribal council chairman Manual Heart.
Sheer also stated that the casino had originally planned on resuming operations by April 9. But now that the virus is knocking at their door, Sheer highlighted that the casino’s main concern is the health of the surrounding community. “Our main concern at this time is keeping our employees, customers, and the tribe safe and healthy,” Sheer said, “It is a fluid time right now, and we’re doing the best with it that we can.”
Still on target for May 1
Like Ute Mountain Casino, the majority of Casinos in Colorado are wondering when operations will be allowed to resume. While the gaming industry is momentarily put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado’s Gaming Division continues to focus on the mandate to legalize sports betting in the state starting May 1.
Despite the recent shutdown of Colorado’s physical gambling and gaming infrastructure, the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (LGCC) has recently approved over a dozen sporting betting licenses and has plans to issue a total of 33 licenses to online and retail sportsbooks statewide.
It may seem strange that the CLGCC is moving forward with a May 1 launch date on sports betting when Colorado’s casinos are closed for the foreseeable future. But as the virus spreads, Colorado’s gaming and gambling industry continues to look for innovative strategies to stay ahead of the game. For example, to help mitigate the risk of exposure to gamblers and casino employees, the commission has approved Temporary Internet Sports Betting Operator Licenses for Fox Bet, PointsBet, and FanDuel Sportsbook. According to division director, Dan Hartman, the gaming division in still aiming for a May 1 launch date, but the commission will need to revisit the impact of COVID-19 on the gaming industry at its next meeting in April.