Colorado Considers Reopening Table Games For Certain Counties

Casinos in Black Hawk could be offering table games a few weeks from now. As of Aug. 11, the Colorado Health Department lifted its ban on variance requests. That means counties can request some specific COVID-19 restrictions be lifted, with a catch. If you’ve had a spike in cases within the last two weeks, your application won’t be considered. 

“We have resumed processing variances, starting with local communities with low or no transmission,” said Gabi Johnson, a spokesperson for the Colorado Joint Information Center.

Colorado Sharp was directed to the state health department’s website, which was updated Aug. 12 with the latest information. It spells out how the variances will now be considered. The department will look at a county’s recent data. How many cases did they have over the last two weeks? What percentage of tests were positive? How many outbreaks did they have? 

Based on all that, the county will be judged as low, medium or high risk, as we’ve written about before. If the county appears to be low risk, with a good plan to fight any potential outbreaks, it’s likely the application gets approved. For gamers, the main issue is what this means for table games. When casinos got approval to reopen in June, they had restrictions. A limited number of guests could come in and table games had to remain shut down. There was a caveat, however. If virus cases stayed low, the health department would consider lifting the table game ban in July. Instead, COVID-19 cases spiked, due in part to a religious conference held in Teller County. As a result, the health department put a full moratorium on all variance requests. Now that’s been lifted, it’s time to start talking about table games. 

Most Counties Don’t Qualify For Table Games

As of now, only Gilpin County could even qualify to apply for a variance. We’ve mentioned before that tribal casinos remain closed, as La Plata and Montezuma both have virus cases above 100. The Sky Ute Casino staff released a statement on their website, saying they hoped to open soon, but wouldn’t set a date. 

“Though the situation remains uncertain, we are hopeful this date is getting closer,” the statement reads. “We are carefully listening to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Colorado Governor’s Office and our Tribal Council directives and taking their recommendations seriously.” 

The Mountain Ute casino, on the other hand, hasn’t updated information since April. Staff members did not respond to Colorado Sharp’s requests for an interview. 

The situation is similar in Teller County, where virus cases continue to climb. By Aug. 6, the county reported 121 cases. One week later on Aug. 13, the numbers had jumped to 143. While that doesn’t put them at risk of closing, as we explain here, it also isn’t a county where case numbers are dropping. Speaking to Colorado Sharp, Teller Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder said the county is working hard to address these issues. 

“Like most counties in recent weeks, our contact tracing and case investigation work has increased,” Dettenrieder said. “We have hired three new nurses as COVID employees to assist Teller County Public Health with these efforts. We continue to push the basic, common sense messaging to the public to social distance, wear a mask, avoid large crowds and be respectful of others.” 

Gilpin Keeps Virus Cases Low

Gilpin County remains one of Colorado’s success stories. As of Aug. 13, the county reported 17 cases. To be clear, that’s 17 cases total since March, with only one over the last month. They have all the same challenges as other counties. Restaurants reopened in June, as did local casinos. And yet, Gilpin’s managed to prevent outbreaks. Casino officials point to technology as the reason why. 

Monarch Casino in Black Hawk uses microshield technology. First, surfaces get hit with an electrostatic burst, then they get covered with a disinfectant. Finally, a biostatic coating goes on. The idea is not just to clean for the day, but to protect against bacteria for months. Based on multiple reports, the system has a record of killing 99 percent of bacteria for multiple months. At Wildwood, the answer is ultraviolet light. When a strong dose of UV light hits bacteria or viruses, they become incapable of infecting anyone. According to a study by Advanced Biotechnologies, If you use a UV lamp, it only takes two minutes to kill all material in a petri dish. For cleaning a whole room, it’ll take about an hour.

Gilpin officials submitted a request for table games right before the moratorium went into effect. Now that requests are being taken again, in their recent meetings, officials said they plan to resubmit. There’s no specific timetable for when that submission will happen or when the state will make a decision. 

About the Author

Brian Carlton

Brian Carlton is an award-winning journalist who has covered casinos, the gaming and finance industries for more than a decade. His work has been published by the BBC and a variety of newspapers across the U.S.