Colorado Casinos Ready to Lift Bet Limits, Add New Games May 1

All bets (and limits) are off in Colorado come May 1.
All bets (and limits) are off in Colorado come May 1. Conor McCormick-Cavanagh
On May 1, Colorado casinos, which were hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, will be able to get rid of $100 betting limits and add new games.

"The limit and game expansion is great for Central City, and all of Colorado! We are very excited for the opportunity presented to our existing casinos, and for the opportunity to bring new operators in," says Jeremy Fey, mayor of Central City.

Betting limits are headed to the dustbin of history thanks to the passage of Amendment 77, a gaming-industry-backed measure that Colorado voters approved in November 2020, giving the three casino towns of Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek the power to make rules allowing the removal of limits and the addition of new games in casinos. In December, the city councils in Black Hawk and Central City did just that; Cripple Creek City Council followed a month later.

"Lifting the betting limits and adding the full complement of casino games brings a whole new dynamic to the City of Black Hawk. We anticipate tapping into a new market as our casino's entertainment offerings increase and the excitement builds," says David Spellman, mayor of Black Hawk. "Besides growing our Denver metro area customers, Black Hawk will become a greater regional draw for visitors."

Gambling has been legal in the three historic mining towns since October 1991, following the 1990 passage of Amendment 4, which allowed for "limited stakes gaming," with $5 maximum bets. Blackjack, poker and slot machines were the only games permitted then, and gaming was limited to the hours of 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

In 2008, Colorado voters approved raising the stakes to $100, allowed casinos to add craps and roulette, and gave them the green light to operate around the clock. As a result of the passage of Amendment 77, Deadwood, South Dakota, is the only place where gambling is legal to still have betting limits.

In February, the state's Limited Gaming Control Commission — which might need a new name since bets are no longer limited in Colorado — approved allowing casinos to add new forms of blackjack, poker and war, as well as keno, pai gow tiles, Big Six Wheel, regular baccarat, variations of baccarat and Five Treasures.

Colorado casinos expect baccarat, the favorite card game of James Bond, to be a big draw, and many of them are readying their gaming floors in order to have baccarat tables ready on May 1. Masks are still required at casinos, as is social distancing, but otherwise they're getting back to business.

Monarch Casino, for example, will have baccarat tables operational on May 1, and plans to roll out keno later in May. The casino will start raising betting limits next month, too, with staff managing how high to make betting limits by looking at customer demand — and considering how well they know the customer, says Erica Ferris, director of marketing.

"There won’t be a gaming-based reason to make a trip to Las Vegas anymore. I think this is going to be really exciting for Colorado," Ferris says. The Monarch recently opened its own spa and hotel.

Since the early 1990s, Colorado casinos have taken in over $18 billion in revenue. The taxes generated from gaming in the state go to a variety of beneficiaries, including Gilpin and Teller counties, the three gaming towns, community colleges and historic preservation work.

On May 1, the state will also mark the first anniversary of legal sports betting, approved by Colorado voters in November 2019. The state taxes sportsbook winnings at 10 percent, with the majority of that revenue going to the Colorado Water Plan, designed to ensure that Colorado has enough water for farming and recreation on a long-term basis.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.