by Rick Langenberg:
(Related Cover Story)
Bronco Billy’s general manager Marc Murphy knows about surviving tough obstacles and the ups and downs of Cripple Creek gambling.
Murphy, the town’ sole remaining head casino operator who has held the managerial ropes for the same establishment since the beginning of legal betting in the Creek, had high hopes for the summer of 2013, with a more robust national and state economy. The Creek gaming industry, which recorded flat numbers for most of the last decade, was finally ready to turn the corner, according to the predictions of financial experts and industry leaders.
But then came the Waldo Canyon floods and the frequent closures of Hwy. 24., resulting in an actual decline in betting volume from 2012 for the town’s gaming industry. “It’s been a tough year,” said Murphy, who admits the highway closures have definitely had a negative impact on casino business. Plus, national news reports, outlining a doom and gloom scenario for travelers, hasn’t helped
Still, the Billy’s general manager is not wavering on the future growth of Bronco Billy’s and ways to enhance the experience for their regular patrons and new customers. By early next month, Bronco Billy’s plans to open yet another expansion, as it completes its spurt into another former retail shop. “We are very excited,” said Murphy, who describes the new 1,800 square-foot one-story expansion into the old Jahns Jewelry store to the east of its current property, as primarily a table game outlet. It will be equipped with a least six blackjack tables and associated amenities. In addition, the expansion will allow Billy’s to have a larger craps and roulette area in the current section of its casino. “We have had to turn people away on the weekends, said Murphy, in citing one big problem with Billy’s current setup for table games. In essence, he says the expansion, which features classic, turn-of-the-century brick façade, is being driven by a desire for more customer comfort. “It will be a great addition,” added the casino general manager.
Murphy says this is Bronco Billy’s seventh major expansion, since it started as a small slot hangout with less than 100 devices in October 1991. “I would never have thought we would have grown the way we have, with a casino with 750 devices, 330 employees and three restaurants. We were really lucky to be located in a great block and to have great employees.” And despite a summer not blessed by Mother Nature, he is bullishly optimistic about the future of Billy’s and the town in general. “We did about as well as expected,” said Murphy. Billy’s throughout the summer did a number of car promotions and giveaways. It showcased a “Great American Summer,” with $500,000 in cash, trips and cars.
In addition, Billy’s showcased live music on the weekends with The Lounge area, next to the Steakhouse, highlighting some of the area’s top performers. And more recently, Bronco Billy’s hired a new marketing director, as it added Wendy Field to its ranks. “We are glad to have her,” said Murphy. “We are excited.” Field has worked in the promotional arena in the local casino industry for the last two and a half years, along with serving in a variety of other marketing positions outside gaming, according to Murphy.
The Billy’s head manager is also a big proponent of Bennett Avenue enhancements and believes these improvements will help local businesses. He was impressed with the new design plans recently unveiled by Denver-based Parson Brinckerhoff, as part of an effort to give the main street a much needed facelift. Construction work on the $2.6 million-plus project, which will include vastly enlarged sidewalks and a more pedestrian-friendly feel,, is expected to occur next year. “We definitely need to improve Bennett Avenue,” said Murphy. “This would be a good thing for the town.” Since he got involved as a casino manager, Murphy has played a big role in efforts to spruce up the downtown.
And as for major political hurdles, such as gambling movements in other parts of Colorado and the usual video lottery terminal (VLT) menace, Murphy, who has been on the forefront of campaigns to de-rail these efforts, reports an all quiet on the political front scenario. However, he cautions that probably another VLT legislative bill could surface again. Last year marked the first time the local casino industry wasn’t threated by any legislative bids to add slots at race and horse tracks in Colorado. “We always keep a close eye on these developments,” concluded Murphy.