This week saw the announcement that Colorado casinos in Black Hawk, Cripple Creek, and Central City would finally be open for business after nearly 3 months out of commission under Gov. Jared Polis’ safer-at-home order. The order remains in place for now, but some Colorado businesses are being allowed to reopen in phases and with certain restrictions in place.
In recent weeks, both Teller and Gilpin Counties sought a variance to portions of the safer-at-home order from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE). It was Teller County’s second time at bat, with the first request rejected because it included opening table games.
Some of the requirements may surprise you, others probably not so much. But the experience at Colorado casinos will, at least for the time being, be markedly different than CO gamblers might be used to. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect when your favorite casino opens.
Gilpin County (Black Hawk, Central City) – Reopening June 17
Most of Colorado’s 33 casinos are in Gilpin County’s cities of Black Hawk and Central City, including Ameristar, currently the largest casino in the state. As per requirements detailed by CDPHE in a letter to county commissioners, casinos in Gilpin county must abide by the following requirements.
- To achieve social distancing, casinos will be limited to 50% of their posted occupancy limit, ensuring a minimum of 28 square feet per person. No more than 175 people will be allowed at a time in any indoor space, and outdoor spaces no more than 250 people.
- Employees and contracted workers will be monitored for COVID-19 symptoms daily, and any workers exhibiting symptoms will be sent home and not allowed to return until they’ve gone 72 hours without a fever, and 10 days since they first became sick.
- Accommodate for employees with a higher risk of complications due to COVID-19, who are still encouraged to follow the stay-at-home order.
- Signage must be posted on all doors requesting any guests not to enter if they’re experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
- Only slot machines will be open. No table games will be open for at least three weeks, at which time CDPHE will review its decision to keep them closed.
- Bus or other public transport methods that bring people to casinos will be cleaned and disinfected between each ride.
An interesting pro-players addendum CDPHE added to the requirements prohibit altering the odds of the slot machines in favor of the house to compensate for fewer machines being open. According to the rules, players can expect the same odds they would get during normal times.
Gilpin County is currently classified as a “low” risk-level for COVID-19, given the relatively low number of cases it’s had compared to other Colorado counties. If more cases are identified in the county, additional restrictions can be imposed, up to and including rescinding the variance.
Teller County (Cripple Creek) – Reopening June 15
About 90 minutes south of Black Hawk is Cripple Creek, another favorite gaming destination for Colorado gamblers. As per requirements detailed by CDPHE in a letter to county commissioners, casinos in Teller county must abide by the following requirements, which include the same requirements as listed in Gilpin’s variance approval.
Just like in Gilpin County, CDPHE is mandating the casinos in Teller County do not alter the odds of the slot machines even with fewer active machines due to reduced maximum capacity. Teller’s variance also includes a requirement that it detail plans for ensuring the number of passengers in elevators do not break social distancing restrictions.
Like Gilpin’s shuttle service, Teller County’s Ramblin Express will be disinfected and cleaned after every trip, and again at the end of each day.
Tribal Lands Colorado Casinos (La Plata And Montezuma County) – Reopening TBD
Meanwhile, in the southern part of the state, home to Colorado’s tribal casinos in La Plata and Montezuma counties, the number of COVID-19 cases have been too high to reopen just yet. La Plata county has so far seen 82 cases of the virus and Montezuma 57. As both counties actively work to lower their numbers, the CDPHE will revisit their ability to open in the weeks to come.