Customers have returned to Cripple Creek casinos in bigger-than-expected numbers after being closed for three months. And they’ll have another reason to visit the Teller County city when the first in-person sports wagering operation opens there on Wednesday.
The Wildwood Casino will open Cripple Creek’s first sportsbook at 10 a.m. in its Woody’s Sports Bar & Grill, which will continue to operate as a restaurant but also will 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 last week and with 19 other betting applications affiliated with Colorado casinos.
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“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 cancelling sporting events, but we’ve made it,” Andrighetti said. “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. We will have our soft opening on Wednesday with a more formal opening on July 23, when baseball season begins.”
Sports wagering brought in $25.6 million through online and mobile applications in May, the first month of legal sports betting in the state, even with few sports available, 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.
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The arrival of the first retail sportsbook in Cripple Creek comes exactly a month after the city’s 12 casinos were allowed to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a shutdown of 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.”
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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 Tuesday 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 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.