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NFL Betting, Return of Table Games Sparks of Hope in Colorado’s COVID-Influenced Casino Cities

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Like many corners of Colorado that had high hopes for 2020, the state’s gambling capital, Gilpin County, has taken some serious physical blows in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new coronavirus closed casinos in Black Hawk, Central City, and statewide from March 17 to mid-June. Now Gilpin leaders are trying to account for a gap of more than $ 4.5 million in the county’s projected tax revenues, Commissioner Ron Engels said.

“There will be absolutely no investment projects in next year’s budget,” said Engels.

The county’s unemployment rate, which rose more than 20% in April, was still at a rate of 12% in July, according to labor department data.

The past weekend sparked optimism in Black Hawk and Central City and put people back to work. Those sparks come in the form of dice, cards, roulette wheels and footballs.

Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Tuesday moved Gilpin County to the “Protect our neighborsPhase of coronavirus restrictions, a rollback allowing table games such as blackjack, craps and poker to resume for the first time since spring. It also significantly increases the number of people casinos can allow on the floor at one time, up to 500 from the previous limit of 175. Some Black Hawk establishments, including the Monarch Casino, welcomed players Friday morning.

“Our dealers are very excited to be back at work,” said David Farahi, Monarch’s chief operating officer, Thursday, shortly after 100 returning employees passed COVID tests prior to reopening.

The Monarch does not intend to immediately let 500 people in at a time, with a maximum capacity of 25% of the fire code, Farahi said. Some games also look different. In blackjack, only the dealers now touch the cards.

“We want to make sure we have a density that still allows for social distance in the building,” said Farahi.

The other major gambling development over the past week is the kick-off of the NFL season.

Sports betting has been legal in Colorado since May 1, with 20 licensed betting apps processing gamblers’ money while casinos were closed. With all major US sports leagues shut down by the virus, table tennis was the biggest sport for those dollars during the first month of legal sports betting in Colorado, the Division of Gaming reported at the time.

Since then, professional basketball, hockey and baseball have made a return and sports apps have grown in popularity – but NFL football is the most important event.

A recent study by the American Gaming Association has shown this 33.2 million Americans reported planning to bet on NFL games this yearincluding 11.3 million via online platforms (legal and illegal) and 6.6 million who planned to visit physical sportsbooks.

DraftKings entered the ground floor of the Colorado legal market. In addition to the app, it is physically present at the Mardi Gras Casino in Black Hawk. Company co-founder Matt Kalish called Colorado “one of our best markets” and expressed high hopes for what the NFL season will mean for action in the state.

“The NFL has the largest national audience that follows the sport, and I think it’s also the weekend cadence,” Kalish said of football’s dominance when it comes to betting. “The NFL was just cut off on Sunday. Everyone just pays attention and drops what they are doing to pay attention. “

DraftKings is just getting started on the retail side of sportsbook operations, but the Monarch, which has a sister casino in Reno, Nevada, runs its own book and is used to the physical side of things. Farahi said when he first moved to Colorado, he was amazed at how slow the casino was on Broncos’ Sundays, noting that the NFL brought people up in Reno.

“I’m really curious to see what happens on Monday night, and now that sports betting is legal, whether casinos will become a hub for watching football matches,” said Farahi.

The Monarch now has a small physical sportsbook, but supplements that with a bar where fans and gamblers can watch games. There will be a larger sportsbook as part of the casino’s long-term expansion that will also bring a spa and 516 new hotel rooms to the property, but an expected completion date for that project has not been announced.

Because of the way the Colorado sports betting law is written, even physical location betting does not provide direct tax revenue to Gilpin County, Engels said. But the hope is that players will drop some extra coins, whether on food or in a slot machine, if the sportsbooks can bring them in in person.

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