Hopes of Attracting a Younger Demographic with a Better Experience
~ by John Jones ~
Move over Black Hawk.
There are plans for a new big boy in the Colorado casino game. Last week, Full House Resorts, the owners of Bronco Billy’s Casino and Hotel, announced plans to build a 150-room, four star hotel in Cripple Creek that is adjoining and integral with the company’s existing gaming establishment.
In addition to the new luxury hotel, the expansion is expected to include a full spa and salon, parking garage, convention and entertainment space, and a restaurant that specializes in fine dining.
Since the company’s acquisition of Bronco Billy’s in May of 2016, Full House Resorts has consistently been in the process of acquiring land and land options surrounding the current Bronco Billy’s location, forming an approximate six-acre site. The assembled land package includes the former Imperial Casino, which Full House intends to reopen; the historic Imperial Hotel, which offers 12 refurbished guest rooms and would be part of the complex; and approximately four acres of vacant or underutilized land.
“We’ve spent almost a year assembling land and designing a project that will provide a luxury experience and complement the unique historic nature of the town,” noted Daniel R. Lee, President and Chief Executive Officer of Full House Resorts. “We believe it will help transform Cripple Creek into a stronger, year-round tourism destination.” stated Lee.
Billy’s Battle Ameristar
In recent years, Cripple Creek has struggled to compete with Colorado’s major gambling hub near Denver, Black Hawk. Since 2009, with the opening of the Ameristar Casino Resort Spa complex, Black Hawk has boasted that their community is the first destination casino town in Colorado. While opponents state that the 33-story luxury hotel and day spa is far from the original plan of maintaining historic appearances, the hotel featuring 536 rooms and 64 suites, is the tallest structure between Salt Lake City and Denver.
The original Colorado gaming law allowed only a $5 maximum bet in its casinos, making it uneconomical for casino operators to build and operate high-quality hotels and other non-gaming amenities, as they do in other gaming areas, such as Nevada and Oklahoma. The law, however, was changed to allow a $100 maximum bet beginning in 2009. “That changed the economics significantly,” noted Lewis Fanger, Chief Financial Officer of Full House Resorts.
“Casino operators in Cripple Creek’s rival city of Black Hawk, which caters principally to Denver, responded by building quality hotels and other non-gaming amenities, a trend that continues today. The Bronco Billy’s hotel will be the first new hotel in Cripple Creek in more than ten years and it will bring a new level of hospitality to the historic mountain town.” stated Fanger.
In 2015, Black Hawk residents also voted to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries. Black Hawk officials cite the addition of recreational marijuana, and an active night life for adults between 21-35 with disposable income, as key factors in making their community a prime gaming destination. Despite multiple marketing campaigns, Cripple Creek continues to try to find ways to attract the same age group, but with little success.
“We believe that the Colorado Front Range, and particularly the southern part of such area, has tremendous growth potential. The gaming spent per capita today in the region is significantly below the national average and far below other markets with similar demographics and geography. We think that reflects the lack of non-gaming amenities being offered. Cripple Creek only has approximately 500 guest rooms and many of those are of mediocre quality, and we want to change that.” stated Lee. Lee also noted that the Colorado Springs area is enjoying strong population and economic growth, which could boost potential profit earning in the casino industry.