After Colorado’s Gilpin County reopened its table games last week, Teller County officials on Friday asked the state to allow Cripple Creek's 12 casinos to reopen blackjack, craps, poker and roulette tables, and serve alcohol around the clock.
While the city's casinos reopened June 15 after a nearly three-month closure resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, they weren't allowed to resume table games without a separate state approval. Casinos in Black Hawk and Central City were allowed to reopen table games Friday because Gilpin County moved to a looser set of restrictions, called "Protect Our Neighbors" that are designed to slow the spread of the pandemic.
“Counties that cannot meet the Protect our Neighbors criteria have disease transmission levels that present increased risk, particularly in situations where people are indoors and unable to socially distance," according to the Colorado State Joint Information Center.
Marc Dettenrieder, chairman of the Teller County Board of Commissioners, said he expects the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to act on the request "in a week or so," Colorado Springs Gazette reports. The request is an amendment to a variance to statewide COVID-19 restrictions that allowed the casinos to reopen with limited capacity and fewer slot machines in order to maintain social distancing, temperature checks and mask requirements for customers and employees, and frequent cleaning of slot machines.
"We worked very closely with the casino industry on this variance," Dettenrieder said. "We feel like we are in a good position to go back to this with new COVID cases trending down. While table games are on percentage basis relatively small, they are an important part of casinos getting back to normal with their revenue. This variance is really important to the City of Cripple Creek, which struggled when the casinos were closed."
The request limits players to three per table for black jack, four for roulette and six each for craps and poker; players and employees must wear masks except when drinking or eating and use hand sanitizer before beginning play. Cards, chips, dice, roulette balls and other equipment must be cleaned frequently. All customers will be limited to buying one alcoholic drink every 30 minutes.
On September 8, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment granted three counties —Gilpin, Rio Blanco and Mesa — permission to move to the Protect Our Neighbors level of operations, with less stringent guidelines, because the counties had met certain goals related to case numbers, health care and testing capacity. With that status change, casinos in the Gilpin County gaming towns of Black Hawk and Central City are now able to offer table games, Westword reports.
"Since Colorado is the only state that allowed casinos to open with slot machines only and not table games, there are some best practices that have been developed across the country that we’re going to deploy here in Colorado," said David Farahi, chief operating officer of the Monarch Casino and Resort in Black Hawk.
At Monarch, table games will now be "touch-free on the cards," according to Farahi. So for blackjack, the only version of the game that will be allowed is one in which the first card is dealt face up, like all of the other face-up cards in a player's hand. That way, only the dealer will be touching the cards. There will be hand sanitizer at every table, and casino workers will sanitize chips throughout the day.
Games that require a player to touch cards, such as pai gow poker, will not be available. But Monarch will have craps. "The shooter will sanitize their hands before shooting," said table games manager Steve Zlobin. "The dice will be sanitized as well. When the shooter changes, the dice will again be sanitized and the shooter will sanitize before they shoot. Rinse and repeat.”