Voters made many consequential decisions during the 2020 election. While the presidential election took the spotlight, Colorado gaming underwent an earth-shattering transformation. Colorado voters passed Amendment 77. With 60.5% of the vote, Colorado allowed Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek to vote to:
- Increase betting limits
- Add new casino games
But on December 1, 2020, Black Hawk’s City Council voted to remove betting limits and introduce four new games to Black Hawk’s casinos. This signals an important shift in Colorado gaming. Black Hawk is the first Colorado gaming city to make these changes. It’s also the first one to begin implementing an aggressive strategy to attract high rollers from surrounding mountain towns to Black Hawk.
How Black Hawk Eliminated Betting Limits And Added Games
Most Colorado residents voted to allow the casino cities to control betting limits and games. However, Black Hawk residents had their own local vote. They voted to let their City Council make betting limit and game addition decisions. With Black Hawk’s City Council calling the shots, Black Hawk was poised to make sweeping changes quickly.
On December 1, the Black Hawk City Council voted to eliminate betting limits and add games. The changes take effect May 1, 2021, exactly one year after sports betting launched in Colorado. The goal of these changes is to attract high rollers from the ski resorts to the casinos. Black Hawk seems to hope it can be a mini-Vegas in the mountains and take advantage of ski tourism in the winter. They also seem to be looking past the pandemic and preparing for massive foot traffic. It should be a recipe for increased revenue for Black Hawk and Colorado.
What New Games Are Coming To Black Hawk?
Four new major games are coming to Black Hawk casinos. Two of them were predictable choices, but the other two were a surprise. Here’s what bettors will find from Colorado casinos on May 1, 2021:
- Pai Gow Poker
- Big Six Wheel
We’ve covered baccarat and keno before. Baccarat has a low house advantage but can accept staggeringly high wagers. In contrast, keno has a high house advantage but doesn’t have the extreme wagers common to baccarat. Both games are designed to grow casino revenue by increasing wager sizes and the casino’s expected cut of each wager.
But pai gow poker may be new to some bettors. Players get seven cards and split them into two-card and five-card hands. Cards are valued the same as they are in poker. The higher hand wins. But pai gow poker makes the casino money by offering fortune side bets. Those side bets have house advantages around 8%, which is great for casinos, but bad for player wallets. It’s no coincidence Black Hawk wanted pai gow poker. Those side bets are where Black Hawk casino money will come from.
Finally, Big Six Wheel is a game that’s free money for casinos. Bettors place a bet on which number or symbol the wheel will land on. If bettors guess correctly, then they win. If players wager on a rare number or symbol, then they’ll win more. However, the odds are tilted in the casino’s favor. The Big Six Wheel’s house advantage ranges from 11% to over 24%. This is the most accessible new game for new players, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to win. Over time, casinos still come out on top.
Variations On Familiar Favorites
Black Hawk casinos aren’t just getting new games. They’re also getting new spins on games players are probably familiar with. These include:
- Casino War
- Tiger Split
- Double Ball Roulette
- Free Bet Blackjack
- Stadium Blackjack
The first two table games are the only completely new ones. Casino War is just war with money. If a bettor’s card is higher than the dealers, then they win. Tiger Split is most similar baccarat. Again, bettors play against the dealer. Players add their hand together, and if it’s higher than the dealer’s, then it wins. These games are accessible to new bettors, which could be preparation for Black Hawk’s anticipated increase in foot traffic.
Double ball roulette is regular roulette with an extra ball. Its house edge is similar to single-ball roulette. There’s not a lot to say about this one; it’s mostly a fresh spin on a time-tested game.
The two blackjack variants are interesting, though. Free Bet Blackjack allows bettors to:
- Double-down for free
- Split for free
- Bet on the dealer busting with 22 points
Its biggest difference is the side bet. If the dealer gets 22 points, everyone else at the table loses, and the person who bet on the dealer getting 22 wins. Players have to watch each other to see whether anyone makes–or wins–a Push 22 side bet. If players use the same strategy as regular blackjack, they can end up giving the casino more money. Players will have to prepare before trying Free Bet Blackjack.
Stadium Blackjack is blackjack with 44 players and one dealer. Everyone plays at the same time to try to beat the dealer. It’s a great social atmosphere. It’s also evidence that Black Hawk is anticipating a lot of new bettors after the pandemic. If Black Hawk casinos are making room for Stadium Blackjack, then they’re prepared for a crowd.
What These Changes Mean For Black Hawk
Players will likely notice changes in their favorite casinos. Some of these table games will require more space. That’ll change how the floors look–especially when Stadium Blackjack arrives.
But Black Hawk seems to be preparing for more high-dollar players and bigger crowds. Games like baccarat lend themselves to massive bets from wealthy players. However, games like Casino War are great for casino novices. Eliminating betting limits and introducing new games gives players more flexibility in what and how they play.
Black Hawk locals may end up with heavier tourist traffic after May 1, 2021, too. Black Hawk is trying to increase its appeal to tourists and bring more of them from around Colorado–and even skim some off Vegas. These early moves are how Black Hawk is trying to grow into a premier gaming and sports betting destination.
However, the other two casino cities could make similar changes. Black Hawk is only the first casino city to act on the new freedoms contained in Amendment 77. However, Black Hawk could set the stage for the other casino cities to blueprint gaming industry changes. Colorado’s gaming industry is about to intensify its competition with other states. The race is on to see which casino cities cater to out-of-state high rollers and which ones remain committed to serving their local communities.