By Jeff Todd

BLACK HAWK, Colo. (CBS4) – One of the hardest hit industries from the COVID-19 pandemic is hoping for a rebound this year with gaming in Colorado looking completely different in 2021. Sports betting has surpassed $1 billion in bets and soon table games will expand without bet limits.

(credit: CBS)

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“The sports book being added, new table games being added, it’s a very exciting time in Colorado,” said Tim Morrissey, the General Manager of Saratoga Casino Black Hawk. “I think we have a lot of strong plans for what the future holds.”

The state has seen a sharp decrease in taxes collected from the three gaming communities in the mountains. Gilpin county, home of Central City and Black Hawk brought in nearly half of the taxes compared to previous years. The introduction of sports betting in May 2020 has helped casinos only marginally.

“It certainly added revenue that we’re appreciative of. It’s impactful for the state’s tax dollars. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if we didn’t have it, but we’re very excited to have it. We think there’s a lot of growth there,” Morrissey said. “The impact overall is positive for our business. Certainly today with the pandemic going on, any incremental revenue is great revenue for us.”

Tim Morrissey (credit: CBS)

Many casinos have partnered with sports book operators through a revenue sharing agreement.

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Casinos in Colorado were closed for portions of March, April, May and June in 2020. But table games have been shut down for much longer, as higher case counts closed that form of gaming in November.

“We’ve just had to be very versatile, very adaptive,” Morrissey said.

Many in Gilpin County are hoping the worst is behind them. It’s estimated about 25 percent of the county works in gaming. Many workers have faced layoffs and furloughs.

On Saturday, the county was moved to blue on the Colorado COVID-19 Dial, meaning capacities can go up to 175 people in most places. That move is expected to bring back jobs. But the biggest boost is still on the horizon with the elimination of limits and expansion of table games expected in May.

“That will allow us to change the way we market table games; change the guests we’re attracting. We have a lot to offer for entertainment for those guests as their confidence returns and they want to come up the hill and have some fun,” Morrissey said.

A few hundred residents of Gilpin County have already received the vaccine with a ballroom at one of the casinos being used for the community to get the shot.

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“I think as the vaccine rolls out, guest confidence is going to continue to increase. We see more guests returning to the market every day. And that’s only going to get stronger as the vaccine rolls out more,” Morrissey said.

Jeff Todd