Colorado Casinos Continue to Remain Closed as Others Reopen

June marks the fourth month that the United States has been fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Over the past few weeks, non-essential businesses like casinos have been reopening across the nation in order for people to get back to work and provide entertainment for citizens. A few states however, are holding back. This includes Colorado. Casinos in the state are still shut down and counties are beginning to see reopening approval so they can see revenues come in once again.

Still Closed

In Colorado, retail casinos are still closed, despite county leaders wanting them to get back to work. Thousands of people remain furloughed as millions of dollars in losses are adding up month after month during the closure. Governor Jared Polis has said he will work with leaders in Gilpin and Teller counties to reopen the casinos in a safe manner.

However, it seems that the guidelines are inconsistent. In May, the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment approved a variance request, partially, for Teller County, allowing such venues as restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and other types of non-essential businesses to reopen. However, the casino reopening request was denied.

It is even unclear as to if the 33 commercial casinos in the state will reopen by the end of this month. For Teller County, the region wanted to see the Cripple Creek casinos back in action. An application was submitted on May 8th to see the venues allowed to reopen.

During the shutdown, Cripple Creek has been unable to collect fees from gambling devices and they have lost sales-tax collections due to the restrictions. The city has seen a budget shortfall of around $2 million during the pandemic.

Some states have allowed the gaming regulators to give the go-ahead on reopening. However, in Colorado, the health department is in charge. The department may see more pressure from counties this week as even more states start to lower the restrictions on gaming venues.

Even though Teller County is reaching a low point and in desperate need of funds, the health department took two weeks to respond to the request by the county. Apparently, the department has a backlog of requests and are taking longer to respond. The governor says it could take up to a week to hear back, but this in this instance, it took much longer.

Casino Specific Variance

On May 29th, Teller County as well as Gilpin County, submitted a variance request that was casino specific. They are hoping that the health department will act quickly and provide some assistance and guidance on when and how the casinos can reopen.

Officials in Teller County feel that the office of the governor and the health department are disconnected. A statement was provided by the Colorado State Joint Information Center to which said that the group continues to work with counties to create a plan for casinos. As it is not a statewide activity, they expect the nexus of action to be on a county level.

The County is working hard to get back to gaming, having just presented a 20-page variance request that includes comprehensive guidelines that include social distancing, requiring masks for everyone including customers as well as temperature checks.

The proposal would see table games remain shut down except for blackjack. Poker, craps and roulette would remain closed upon the initial reopening.

When sportsbooks are allowed to reopen, the officials of Teller County do not feel that there will be any major social distancing concerns.


Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.