~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Nestled in the shadow of Pikes Peak is the small and remarkable town of Cripple Creek.
During the gold rush of the late 1800s, Cripple Creek became one of the biggest economic hubs in the West, as gold seekers and miners flooded the area. Many of these historic turn of the century buildings, the majority of which were constructed following the fires of 1896, still remain.
Local leaders and residents opted for a second gold rush of sorts by trying to revitalize the town and its deteriorating buildings through limited stakes gaming, which began 28 years ago on Oct. 1, 1991. This followed a state-wide campaign and a favorable vote by Colorado voters.
Another pro-gaming vote occurred in late 2008 that paved the way for 24-hour gambling, $100 single-bet wagers and new games such as roulette and craps. And in the summer of 2015, town leaders upped the ante again by agreeing to establish an official entertainment district, which set the stage for common consumption areas that permit 24/7 cocktail service for gaming and restaurant customers. This is part of an effort to draw more patrons in town and provide a more festive environment.
This pro-gambling trend may continue even further as state voters will decide in November if they want to allow sports betting inside licensed gaming establishments in Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City. A related local vote also will occur on the same issue (see related editorial). If approved, this could provide more excitement, especially during high showdown sports games, such as the Super Bowl and the World Series.
Sports betting is now allowed in individual states, at their direction, courtesy of a Supreme Court ruling that did away with the prohibition that only permitted this activity in Las Vegas and Nevada. Although the verdict is not in on how much this could generate, experts believe it could offer another mini-jackpot for casinos, especially with a different kind of betting action.
That’s important, as the city’s gaming industry is still much leaner than its earlier heyday 10 to 12 years ago. In the most recent period of recording, Cripple Creek casinos have generated $12 million more in overall coin-in wagering figures from the previous year at this time. And adjusted gross proceeds have spiked by $2.3 million or 2.9 percent on a year-round basis. Plus, Cripple Creek is gaining slightly in market share against the Goliath of gaming, Black Hawk. Still revenue is considerably lower than the peak season, 2007, mainly because the city offers fewer betting devices.
It’s still unclear how sports betting will impact Cripple Creek. In addition, the city has opted to play out its recreation hand further by legalizing ATV (all-terrain vehicles) use on all city streets, 24 hours a day. The town also has opened an elaborate adventure park, complete with an 18-hole disc golf course, a dog park, hiking trails, an expanded BMX facility, sledding areas and much more. And last summer, plans were finalized for the Cripple Creek/Victor spurt to the 100-mile Ring the Peak trail looping hikers and outdoor buffs around America’s favorite mountain and combining links to a slew of communities in the region.
This is part of an overall push to become more of a destination area. As part of their new marketing approach, the city wants to promote more adventure and recreation activities.
There is a growing desire to offer more than just gaming in Cripple Creek. This trend is further accelerated by plans for more than $100 million worth of hotel expansion developments, aimed at giving Cripple Creek more amenities. Three major casino/hotel bids are in the works.
As the town celebrates the 28th anniversary of limited stakes gaming, good times have returned with the casino industry showing definite signs of improvement Current city statistics indicate that the industry is on a continual upward swing.
Nope, the downtown area is not filled with 30-plus casinos, similar to the first summer of gaming, but the town is operating a more steady development hand. Plus, the town has experienced more visitors and their special events have been quite popular. “It has been a good year for gaming and visitation,” said City Administrator Mark Campbell. The town is now committed to doing live music almost every weekend at the pocket park next to city hall.
The new focus of the city is to do more smaller events.
During their stint with Lady Luck, Cripple Creek has strived to preserve the mining heritage of the area and the old Victorian-era flavor of the town. Non-gaming shops are still thriving, despite the doomsday analysists of certain critics. So, even though state-of-the-art gaming devices dominate the interior of many of these buildings in the downtown core, the ambiance of this quaint turn-of-the-century town prevails. The casinos in Cripple Creek offer daily, weekly and seasonal promotions. These change often, so check with regular updates in The Mountain Jackpot (TMJ) or check the websites of the local casinos.
In addition, Cripple Creek features a culinary and lodging treasure, one of the best kept secrets in town. For example, Cripple Creek abounds with many restaurants, eateries and coffee shops, all located inside Cripple Creek casinos and within a short walk of the gaming district. It also features about 500 overnight lodging accommodations, courtesy of the town’s growing number of hotels, motels, bed and breakfast establishments and RV parks. This lineup is expected to increase dramatically within the next five years, as several casino properties are planning some major lodging expansions.
Plus, Cripple Creek sports some great historic attractions and museums (see related story). The town is now preparing to roll out the welcome mat for the 28th year of gaming. Due to frequent changes on the Creek gaming front, we will provide continual updates. Continual casino updates will be provided throughout the 2019/2020 season.