Casinos in Gilpin County, which includes the mountain resort towns of Black Hawk and Central City, have been ordered to stop offering table games after a surge in COVID-19 cases put the county into the more restrictive “Yellow” level of incidence rates.
The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) issued a notice to the Gilpin County Public Health on Oct. 16 to warn them their case totals had exceeded thresholds set out in Protect Our Neighbors. At that time, incidence rates in the county were slowly creeping up, with two new cases reported in the two week period preceding the notice and a positivity percentage of 2.65%.
As of the date of the latest notice from Nov. 10, those numbers climbed to 17 new cases in the last two weeks, and a positivity percent of 7.77%.
Another Round Of Casino Closures Coming?
Colorado casinos shut down in mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. They remained closed for more than three months during Gov. Jared Polis’ Safer at Home executive order, reopening with much fanfare in the middle of June. The reopenings were under strict new guidelines, limiting capacity to no more than 50% of full, shutting off every other slot machine to ensure social distancing, and disallowing table games.
Colorado casino counties clamored for months to have table games reopened, and in September finally got their wish when CDPHE allowed them to apply for variances to some pandemic-related restrictions, including the ban on table games. Under the terms of the variances, opening table games, and staying open entirely, were contingent on the counties keeping COVID-19 cases under control.
If case numbers climbed above a certain threshold, or if cases failed to meet a certain downward trajectory, CDPHE reserved the right to rescind the variances that could result in returning to a more restrictive environment or even closing down again. Gilpin’s recent jump in new cases over a two-week period pushed the county out of the Level Green “Protect Our Neighbors” level (fewest restrictions) and into the “Level Yellow” or “Concern” range, which triggered the table games shutdown. The full explanation for Colorado’s “COVID-19 dial” framework can be found here.
What Happens Now?
Table games were restricted when they were allowed to reopen, with the number of players at a table capped and prohibiting the touching of cards. Considering that table games are a cash cow for the county, the restrictions were difficult enough to stomach. Now that table games have shut down again, the county is very much at the mercy of public health data.
In order for casinos to reopen table games, Gilpin County would need to show the total case numbers have dropped them back within the Protect Our Neighbors threshold, and then maintain those numbers for at least two weeks. They’re also required to submit a formal request to the CDPHE before reopening.
In its announcement, CDPHE emphasized the importance of everybody pulling together to ensure public safety. Just as in the rest of the country, Colorado has seen an alarming spike in coronavirus cases since late September, with the state now averaging over 3,000 new infections per day.
“I want to assure you that we appreciate the unique challenges facing Gilpin County and commend you for your efforts and diligence. Stopping the spread of this persistent virus takes the cooperation of everyone consistently practicing good disease prevention strategies and your partnership has been critical. Thank you,” CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan wrote in the letter detailing the new safety restrictions.