Ever since the gold rush days of the 1800s, people have been coming to Gilpin County to strike it rich. Today, they test their luck at more than 20 casinos in Black Hawk and Central City, where slots, poker, craps and roulette are the main attraction. What began as an idea to raise historic preservation funds by allowing small bets in small casinos, has turned into a thriving industry that is constantly growing and reinventing itself. Local casinos are beginning to offer more amenities that compliment their gaming opportunities and attract an even more diverse customer base—some have even become all-inclusive resort properties. Even more big plans are in the works to broaden the area’s appeal to visitors seeking gaming and more.
Gaming in Gilpin County began when a constitutional amendment allowing limited-stakes gaming in the towns of Cripple Creek, Central City and Black Hawk was passed in 1990. The amendment directed a portion of the gaming tax revenues be used for historic preservation throughout the state. The State Historical Fund assists in a wide variety of preservation projects including restoration and rehabilitation of historic buildings, architectural assessments, archaeological excavations, designation and interpretation of historic places, preservation planning studies, and education and training programs. Casino revenue has helped preserve and restore the towns’ 19th-century charms, as well as more than 600 other historic properties across Colorado.
In 2009, the state’s casinos increased betting limits to $100, added new games and began operating 24 hours a day.
Casinos pay taxes on income from gaming and also pay various fees and fines. Last year, the state collected $112 million from gaming, an effective tax rate of 14 percent. After paying to enforce gaming laws, approximately one-quarter of the gaming money goes back to the gaming cities and counties, about one-quarter goes to historic preservation and restoration projects across the state, and half of the revenue is allocated to the state legislature to spend on programs. These programs currently include assistance to local governments for gaming impacts, tourism promotion, economic development programs, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects, and highway projects.
The casino gaming industry provides over 27,000 direct and indirect jobs to Colorado citizens, and annual employment surveys continue to reflect that the casino industry consistently pays higher wages than similar jobs in the metro-Denver or Colorado Springs areas. Most casinos are also dedicated to the communities where they do business, as well as to Colorado as a whole. Every year, casinos make significant contributions to charities and civic projects across the state.
Black Hawk has been working toward becoming Colorado’s first gaming-centric resort destination from the start. Over the past 20 years, nearly $900 million has been invested in land, casinos and related development. Today, Black Hawk is ranked 18th in gaming destinations by American Gaming Association, generating over 84 percent of Colorado’s gaming revenue and hosting more than 20,000 gaming visitors daily.
With its authentic historic attractions, unmatched scenic mountain backdrop and nearby recreational opportunities, Black Hawk is poised to broaden its appeal to visitors seeking gaming and more with its plans to realign Gregory Street and create a pedestrian-friendly entertainment setting that will create development opportunities to enhance the gaming experience with amenities, such as: craft breweries and distilleries, restaurants, entertainment venues, conference venue, local specialty retailers and craftsman, outdoor recreation facilities, educational experiences with historic properties and more.
The transformation of nearby Maryland Mountain and Quartz Valley Open Space will include hiking trails to the Belden & Tennal and Bonanza Mill and Mine sites, Mountain biking trails, mountain bike skills park and indoor/outdoor event facility.
The Ameristar Casino Hotel Spa in Black Hawk has been elevating the game and offering a range of amenities for years. The property—which first opened in 2001 and added its tower in 2009—features a 71,500 square-foot casino, a luxury full-service hotel with 536 well-appointed rooms with 64 luxurious suites, a roof-top pool, fitness center, five dining and entertainment venues, a full-service luxury day spa, 15,000 square-feet of meeting and event space and the largest parking garage in the market. The property features four restaurants and the town’s only Starbucks coffeehouse. The casino also regularly hosts live entertainment on the weekends.
The full-service ARA Day Spa is located within the hotel at Ameristar. It features hot tubs, sauna and steam rooms, and six treatment rooms. The 7,000 square foot Spa offers innovative experiences in addition to traditional spa services, including massages, scrubs, facials, pedicures and manicures.
The Monarch Casino Black Hawk, which took over the former Riviera Casino in 2012, has been transforming its property since its purchase. In the first phase of redesign, Monarch Casino Black Hawk updated its buffet, which now features nightly whole Maine lobster and all-you-can-eat crab. In mid-2015, the casino finished its interior redesign including a video mosaic. It now offers 700 slots and 14 table games. Currently, the construction of 9-story parking structure is underway, and is anticipated to open in Spring 2016. The structure will triple the on-site parking from 500 spaces to about 1,500 spaces.
Following the completion of the parking structure, the original structure will be razed to create the site for the new and expanded casino and hotel tower. The expansion will double the casino space and feature a 23-story hotel tower with over 500 guest rooms and suites, full-service spa, roof-top swimming pool, new restaurants and bars, and 7,500 sq. ft. of banquet facilities.
The Saratoga Casino, also in Black Hawk, has also made many upgrades in its décor and dining options. The Main Street Café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual setting and will even bring food to your machine. The casino’s Mill City Chophouse is where dining reaches new heights. Prime steaks and chops, prepared using Colorado’s freshest ingredients and served in an intimate dining room. It’s a one-of-a-kind restaurant experience.
In Central City, the Reserve Casino is working to provide a heightened experience with its 119 room boutique hotel with deluxe rooms and suites and Bistro 321, a classic American fine dining bistro where quality ingredients are prepared by experts to create a memorable dining experience. The casino’s most unique amenities is its 300-person Las-Vegas-style lounge and its million-dollar audio system. Nationally touring bands frequently play the venue.
Also in Central City, Dostal Alley Casino & Brew Pub may have limited games, but its has the added benefit of an on-site brewery and the best pizza in town.
All of Gilpin County’s casinos have something special to offer, so be sure to check them all out to find a special place to play, stay, relax or eat.
GILPIN COUNTY CASINOS
Ameristar Casino Resort Spa
111 Richman St., Black Hawk • 720-946-4000
Black Hawk Station Casino
141 Gregory St., Black Hawk • 303- 582-5582
Bull Durham Casino
110 Main St., Black Hawk • 303-582-0810
131 Main St., Black Hawk • 303-777-1111
111 Main St., Black Hawk • 303-582-1133
Golden Gates Casino/Golden Gulch Casino/ Golden Mardi Gras Casino
300 Main St., Black Hawk • 303-582-1650
Isle Casino Hotel
401 Main St., Black Hawk • 303-800-9903
340 Main St., Black Hawk • 888-LADY-LUCK
The Lodge Casino
240 Main St., Black Hawk • 303-582-1771
444 Main St., Black Hawk • 303-582-1000
Red Dolly Casino
530 Gregory St., Black Hawk • 303-582-1100
101 Main St., Black Hawk
125 Gregory St., Black Hawk • 720-880-1616
Wild Card Saloon
120 Main St., Black Hawk • 303-582-3412
101 Gregory St., Black Hawk • 303-271-2500
102 Main St., Central City • 303-582-5050
Dostal Alley Casino & Brew Pub
116 Main St., Central City • 303- 582-5563
Easy Street Casino
120 Main St., Central City • 303-582-5914
Famous Bonanza Casino
107 Main St., Central City • 303-582-5914
Johnny Z’s Casino
132 Lawrence St., Central City • 303- 582-5623
Reserve Casino Hotel
321 Gregory St., Central City • 303-582-0800
Originally published in the April 2016 issue of the MMAC Monthly