Teller County Gets Approval to Reopen Cripple Creek Casinos

After nearly 3 months without dealing a single hand, Teller County can finally reopen casinos this week, with some restrictions.

On Monday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told county officials what it will take to reopen the doors in Cripple Creek

“Opening of the slot machines only is approved at this time,” the letter says. “Gaming tables are not approved at this time, but will be considered again in three weeks.” 

Part of that is because Teller 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 two weeks. To be cautious, health officials want to limit the potential points of infection. 

The ruling comes as no surprise to Teller officials, as they removed table games from their request last week. 

“On Wednesday we submitted a revised request, omitting all table games per the recommendation of the local casino folks,” said Teller County Commission Chairman Marc Dettenrieder. 

Instead, Dettenrieder said table games will only be allowed when the state lifts its current restrictions. County officials met with casino operators and determined it would be a challenge to get table games approved right now. 

More Changes Required for Teller County

In addition to restricting table games, Colorado officials are requiring three more changes before doors open in Cripple Creek this week.

First, Teller officials have to limit the number of people able to ride in a casino elevator. To ensure proper social distancing requirements, only a few gamers can reasonably fit in such a small space. That means only two to three people or groups at a time. If a family has been quarantined together, for example, they count as a group. But two families would not be able to share the same elevator, under health department restrictions. 

Health officials also put in a notice about any 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 letter states. 

Finally, Teller County has to take one more step when it comes to prevention efforts. 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. Buses have to be wiped down between each transport, too. That means after taking a handful of people to Cripple Creek, a bus will have to go out of service to be cleaned. As a result, gamers can expect some delays and slightly slower service. 

Could Teller County Host Events Soon?  

As we mentioned before, casinos in “low risk” areas had to limit people in the building to 175. In the variance approved on Monday, health officials restrict that a little more. 

“In order to achieve 6 ft social distancing, the limit is 50 percent of the posted occupancy code limit,” the document states, “not to exceed more than 175 people at any given time.”  

Teller officials also requested permission to hold large events again at the casinos. While health officials didn’t say no, they added some caveats. Plans for any large gathering must be approved by Teller County’s Board of Health. Second, the document states all plans “must include a minimum of 6 feet distancing between participants and require face coverings. Note that this does not authorize gatherings with higher risk of exposure such as festivals, fairs, and concerts, as the state will issue more guidance on when and how those types of events may open in the future.”

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.