Customers have returned to Cripple Creek casinos in bigger-than-expected numbers since the casinos reopened after being closed for three months due to the pandemic. Since July 15, when the first in-person sports wagering operation opened there, they’ve had another reason to visit the Teller County city.
The Wildwood Casino opened Cripple Creek’s first sportsbook July 15 in Woody’s Sports Bar & Grill, which will continue to operate as a restaurant but will also take bets from customers, said Matt Andrighetti, the casino’s general manager. Customers have been able to make sports wagers though the casino’s online sports wagering platform, betwildwood.com since earlier this month and with 19 other betting applications affiliated with Colorado casinos.
“We’re excited to welcome sports betters to the premier of our sportsbook. It’s been a long wait getting to this day with the pandemic canceling sporting events, but we’ve made it,” Andrighetti said July 14. “We had a space that was a great location for sports betting and it was underutilized, so we remodeled, put some money into equipment (a wall of 13 television monitors) and new menus.”
Andrighetti said Wildwood plans to have a more formal opening on Thursday, July 23, when baseball season is set to begin.
Sports wagering got off to a slow start in Colorado, with customers wagering $25.6 million through online and mobile applications during May, according to the Colorado Division of Gaming. Professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey have yet to resume play, so bettors were restricted to less-popular sports like table tennis and Korean baseball. The state has licensed 25 online or mobile application operators and 19 in-person or “retail” sportsbook operations.
The arrival of the first retail sportsbook in Cripple Creek came exactly a month after the city’s 12 casinos were allowed to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic closed all Colorado casinos for three months. General managers for three of the city’s largest casino operators say customers have returned in bigger numbers than expected with casino revenue from slot machines up a bit from the same period a year ago. Poker, blackjack and other table games remained closed.
“All things considered, I think the reopening went very well with smooth operations and revenue growth as good as we could have expected,” said Eric Rose, general manager of Century Casino Cripple Creek. “Slots revenue are up over last year, while food and beverage revenue is down a bit with table games closed. I believe that is a result of pent-up demand and people making the day drive here since they are not traveling to other places on vacation.”
Andrighetti said customer response to Cripple Creek’s reopening has been similar to other locations with casinos — an initial spike in both customers and revenue, which levels off after a few weeks. He said the Wildwood Casino has recalled all employees, but with abbreviated schedules until Colorado casinos are allowed to reopen table games, which require more staffing than slot machines.
Baxter Lee, general manager of Bronco Billy’s Casino, said industry officials met July 14 with Teller County Health Department officials to discuss whether to seek a variance to reopen table games and decided to wait another two weeks to determine whether or when to make the request. He noted that most casinos are operating with about half of the slot machines they had before the pandemic and some, including Bronco Billy’s, have not reopened all dining operations.
“We look forward to being able to offer table games again and turn on all of our slot machines, but it has been nice to see all of our customers coming back up the hill,” Lee said.