Cripple Creek Casino Reopening Guidance Leaves Some Safety Decisions To Owners

Cripple Creek casinos may have reopened this week, but don’t expect them to all follow identical safety prodecures.

After giving Teller County permission to reopen all gambling facilities, the Colorado Department of Health still had a few questions. In order to open, they said, casinos had to make a few more changes and they wanted to know how that would happen. Teller officials explained that while the end result would be the same, each casino would make their own decisions on how to achieve it. 

Teller County casinos reopened on Monday, June 15, albeit with limited activities. That means only slot machines active, with no table games or live performances allowed. Part of that is because the county is not completely virus free. The health department ranks each county from low- to high-risk based on the number of COVID-19 cases. A county ranks as low-risk with 50 or fewer cases. Fifty to 100 ranks as moderate and anything above 100 is considered a high risk for infection. As we reported previously, while Teller ranks in the bottom 50 percent of the state with 34 cases overall, there has been one new case in the last three weeks. To be cautious, health officials want to limit the potential points of infection. If there’s no problems over the next two weeks, table games could reopen in time for the July 4 holiday. 

Casinos Answer The Elevator Problem

First, however, each casino had to make adjustments. In order to comply with the state’s social distancing requirements, only a limited number of people can ride in elevators. If a family has been quarantined together, for example, they count as a group. But it would be hard for two families to share the same elevator, under health department restrictions. 

“Each casino operator will address this individually,” said Marc Dettenrieder, chairman of the Teller County Commission. 

The county isn’t requiring casinos to focus on a specific number. They can fit in as many or as few as wanted, with just one condition. The groups or people have to be six feet apart. With a standard size elevator, that doesn’t allow for much creativity. Based on space, most will only allow one group or three to four people in at a time. This is similar to what’s happening in Las Vegas, where only four people can ride an elevator at one time. It’s still unclear how Teller County casinos will enforce the rules, although multiple casino officials we talked with said they were considering placing a monitor at the elevator. Under that concept, the monitor would keep track of how many enter the elevator and once it reaches the maximum allowed, he or she would send it on. 

What About Casino Payouts And Prevention? 

Health officials followed up the elevator question with a statement about money. Even though slot machines had to be rearranged and some would have to be taken out of service, this can’t affect potential payouts.  

“Any closing of the slot machines cannot be done in a such a manner to intentionally improve the odds in favor of the house when it comes to payouts,” the approval letter to Teller County states.

Dettenrieder acknowledged this as well. He said it would be up to the casinos to address that, based on Division of Gaming regulations. 

Finally, state officials wanted to make it clear the county had to clean transportation being offered as well. The Ramblin Express, the county bus system that takes people to and from the casinos, has to be completely cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis. Dettenrieder directed us to the county’s variance request, which he felt addressed the issue. 

“As part of our casino specific variance request we included a letter and plan from Ramblin Express,” Dettenrieder said. “They indicated that they will be adhering to Clean Care protocols adopted by the International Motorcoach Group.” 

The portion of the letter Dettenrieder referred to states that “prior to every trip, operators will clean and disinfect each vehicle, clean surfaces and use EPA/CDC approved disinfectants.”

Now that will affect travel times for gamers and their families. With buses going out of service for cleaning after every use, be prepared for some delays.

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.