When Century reopened its Colorado casinos in mid-June, gamers responded. The combined second quarter revenue for the two properties was up 51 percent over the same period in 2019. But that was just the start. In July, the company recorded its highest gaming revenue in a decade at Cripple Creek. Meanwhile at Central City, revenue in July nearly doubled from last year. All this happened without table games and with roughly two-thirds of the slots in operation.
While those numbers would be worthy of recognition on their own, it also comes at a time when casinos in many places are struggling.
For the period that ended June 30, Century’s net operating revenue came in at $36.1 million, down from $52.4 million in 2019. Also overall, the company saw $2.1 million worth of losses from operations during 2020’s second quarter. In 2019, the same period brought in earnings of $2.6 million, a 181 percent decline. Some states saw losses across the board for every casino. In Nevada, for example, casinos in the second quarter saw a 45.5 percent revenue drop, while New Jersey casinos lost 20.9 percent compared to last year. And yet, that’s not the story in Colorado. So why did gamers flood into Century’s Colorado casinos? And how can the company build off this?
Century Casinos Seize The Moment
Century officials see it as taking advantage of the moment. Even now in Colorado, activities are limited. You can’t enjoy an amusement park or watch a baseball game in person. In fact, casinos are one of the few non-essential businesses open.
“I attribute that [increase] to pent up demand and customers with more time and less to do,” said Eric Rose, general manager of Century Casino in Cripple Creek. “[There’s] no vacations, travelling, other entertainment options.”
It’s not just a way to get regular gamblers through the doors. With few other entertainment choices, people who might not usually gamble are trying out the casinos just for something to do. And if they don’t want to test the slots, there’s of course the physical and online sportsbook, something new this summer.
“The properties are producing positive cash flow,” said Peter Hoetzinger, Century’s Vice Chairman. Speaking on a conference call with media this month, Hoetzinger attributed some of the revenue growth to the literally new option Colorado residents have for sports betting. After residents voted it in last November, sports betting went live across the state in May. With MLB, the NBA, NHL and PGA all starting back up, Hoetzinger sees it as a good time to be in new markets like Colorado.
“Circa Sports, one of our sports betting partners, has started its online offering already, producing some revenue share for us already,” Hoetzinger said.
A Time to Build Return Customers
While the July numbers were great, Rose looks to build on that in the months to come. He believes once people come through the doors, they’ll want to return. The first way to do that is to make them feel secure. He also points to Initiative 257 as a way to drive increased traffic. Currently, you can only place a maximum bet of $100 at Colorado casinos. If 257 passes this November, that would change. Under the proposal, each town would have the ability to either set their own limits or lift restrictions entirely.
As it stands, out of 23 states where gambling is legal, only two have any types of restrictions. The first is Colorado at $100. The second is South Dakota, where Deadwood casinos have a $1,000 individual bet limit. The argument from supporters of Initiative 257 is that in order for Colorado to compete, especially in a post COVID-19 environment, towns need the ability to lift the limit. Casinos without betting limits often attract professional bettors, potentially increasing both the casino’s revenue and state tax contributions.
“[The] upcoming ballot initiative for no limits and more table games will further build on our local/regional database,” Rose said. “[It’ll also] allow us to compete with their previous trips to Vegas and other destination gaming areas.”