Acquisition of Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek Nixed Due to COVID-19

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to send shockwaves through Colorado’s gaming industry, and now it’s put the skids on the planned acquisition of a Colorado casino.

Saratoga Harness Racing, Inc. and American Gaming Group, LLC, the owner of Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek, jointly decided to walk away from their acquisition agreement for the property. The termination was agreed to because of COVID-19 and the effect it is having on the casino industry, as well as lingering concerns over casino patrons and employees’ safety.

“At this time, we believe it’s in the best interest of both companies, and our respective casinos, to cancel the deal so we can focus on doing what’s best for our casinos and our players,” said Joe Canfora, the owner of Wildwood Casino said in a news release.

What’s Next For Wildwood Casino?

In spite of the pandemic and the acquisition falling through, Wildwood is continuing with construction of a new 104-room, $14 million hotel. The new space will accompany the Gold King Inn as lodging for guests. It will also press ahead with its plans to offer sports betting through a partnership with ISI.

After conducting a customer survey to gauge their thoughts regarding the casino’s eventual reopening, Wildwood Casino says it’s using that feedback to implement new protocols to protect players and employees. Among the new practices is on-demand cleaning crews that will clean surfaces regularly and as requested by players. Wildwood will also shorten operating hours for nightly deep cleanings.

Colorado casinos have been ordered closed since mid-March, costing the state $99 million in revenue and $17.7 million in lost taxes through April 30, a financial analyst estimated at a public meeting this week. Businesses in the state including casinos are eagerly awaiting further word from state officials on the lifting of Gov. Jared Polis’ safer-at-home order, currently set to expire May 26.

A return date has not been set for Wildwood, but another casino in Cripple Creek, Bronco Billy’s, is apparently set to open its doors on June 14, according owners Full House Resorts on a recent earnings call.

Other Colorado Casinos Hurting Due To COVID-19

Casinos in Colorado have been shut down since mid-March due to the coronavirus. Casinos have had to furlough employees and look to different avenues to keep players gambling and interested in their products while “safer-at-home” orders are still in effect through Memorial Day weekend. 

Certainly before the summer is over we have got to get people back up here. For a tourism-based economy, we cannot go for months and months and months without having our visitors,” said Ron Engels, Gilpin County Commissioner. “We will feel huge impacts all summer long.”

Black Hawk and Central City, two casino hubs in Colorado, are located in Gilpin County.

At a meeting of the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission on Thursday, May 21, Gilpin County Manager Abel Montoya said the county’s plunge in revenue due to a near total loss of gambling income could haunt the county for years to come. Montoya said the county, whose annual budget is approximately $25 million, could lose $20-40 million in revenue over the next 5-7 years.

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