All Bets Are off

Back in 1991, the night before “limited-stakes gaming” was officially introduced in three Colorado mining towns – Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City – a group of journalists gathered in Central City to document the start of legal gambling. (Central City's budget was largely based on illegal games back in the ’40s, but that's another story.)

On this night, most of the documentation involved drinking in some of Central City's historic bars, where Dick Kreck, then of The Denver Post, and Bill Husted, then of the Rocky Mountain News, engaged in an epic shouting match over who was the biggest hack.

The bigger question: What effect would gambling have on these mountain towns? The constitutional amendment that allowed “limited stakes” ($5, tops) gaming had been sold as a measure that would benefit historic preservation, but no one could have foreseen that Black Hawk, always the poor sibling to Central City, would really go for the gold, scraping away entire mountainsides in order to build giant casinos. Or that Central City would wind up building a road just to get the jump on Black Hawk. Or that seventeen years later, voters would approve a measure to raise the stakes to $100, add new games (craps and roulette) and let casinos operate 24/7.

That measure takes effect at 12:01 a.m. today, and all three towns are planning parties to coincide with the new rules. No guarantee whether Kreck and Husted will re-create their argument – but the bar where it took place is long gone, replaced by a casino that closed years ago. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Thu., July 2, 2009


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