Despite Leaner Lineup, Local Casinos Report Good Reopening Month
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
After weeks of speculation, sports betting has arrived in Cripple Creek, just in time for the opening pitch for Major League Baseball on Thursday (July 23).
Last week, the town’s first official in-person wagers on professional sports contests occurred at the new retail sportsbook at Wildwood Casino, with a revamped Woody’s Sports Bar and Grill.
“I hope to see the first bet made today,” said Wildwood General Manager Matt Andrighetti, during a soft opening of their new retail sports betting outlet, with a partnership with Internet Sports International (ISI). This is Cripple Creek’s first official in-person retail sportsbook.
At first glance, the hub almost resembles an elaborate sports bar, with a wall of approximately 20 televisions, an amazing state-of-the art sound system and a full bar, and menu. But then at closer observation it features a kiosk with about 10 stations; a full display of betting options and rules on the wall; electronic messages flashing across the screen with regular game updates; employees ready to assist first-time bettors; and yes, a room of sports addicts. And the prospects for betting on current sports and future games are endless, with hundreds of possibilities.
And for the Wildwood, the project turned into a facelift for Woody’s which previously was only opened on the weekends. The restaurant will now be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. with ticket writers available to take bets. Wildwood’s kiosks are open for the same hours as the casino, and a couple counter locations will take bets during peak hours. Wildwood has kiosks in the restaurant and on the gaming floor to promote social distancing and enable greater access for betters.
Like most retail sportsbooks, special offerings will occur during the debut period. Betters at Woody’s, for example, can also enjoy Jack Daniels drink specials as the casino has entered into a three-month sponsorship with the liquor brand. Along with the live-betting sportsbook, Wildwood’s online wagering system, betWildwood.com, and apps are now available for download on Android- and IOS-enabled devices.
Andrighetti admits their sports betting in-person retail outlet has been a long journey that got partially blocked with the mandatory closure of Colorado casinos for three months, along with the plug getting pulled on professional sports.
“We never really stopped,” said Andrighetti, who admits that behind the scenes much activity occurred to turn Woody’s into the town’s first retail sportsbook. “We have taken a very aggressive stance towards growth here at the Wildwood.”
“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,” added Andrighetti
Like most casino operators, he sees sports betting as a great amenity for Cripple Creek, and an added draw to bring more patrons into local casinos. It won’t necessarily become a huge money maker for the town, but it could attract a new demographic. That’s important for Cripple Creek, as the town is making major wagers at becoming more of a destination area, promoting more several-day stays and additional amenities. Besides sports betting, the town may up the ante further by doing away with betting limits on individual wagers and adding new games (see related story).
Sports betting also may become a bigger draw than earlier anticipated.
In the first official month of sports betting in Colorado, sports wagering brought in $25.6 million through online and mobile applications in May. Colorado voters gave the go ahead for sports betting last November, as did the electors of Cripple Creek, in a mandate that required two votes.
But unfortunately, sports betting almost disappeared from the spotlight with the cancelling of all major sports.
Currently, the only real live sports betting can occur on pro golf, NASTAR racing, table tennis and Korean baseball, not exactly sports that have fans lingering at the edge of their seats.
But that scenario will soon change. An opening day professional baseball game between the World Series Champs, the Washington Nationals, and the East Coast bad boys themselves, the New York Yankees, is expected to take center stage
And yes, will it make sense to place a wager on the Colorado Rockies’ chance of winning the National League West title? That may make a good wager, with the current odds.
Then, of course, hockey and basketball will soon resume, with Colorado teams, such as the Nuggets and Avs, expected to make bids for playoff titles.
“The possibilities for betting are endless,” said Andrighetti.
But the big centerpiece in professional sports betting is pro football. According to Andrighetti, 70 percent of professional sports betting action focuses on National Football League games. The runner-up spot goes to pro basketball and hockey, followed by baseball. And for golf geeks, the big wagering continues to center on the comeback of Tiger Woods, especially at upcoming major championships, such as the U.S. Open and Masters.
On an international basis, soccer is a huge betting draw.
Good Reopening for Creek Casinos
Sports betting is just part of the resurgence of Cripple Creek casinos. Andrighetti reports a good reopening period for the Wildwood; and more importantly, excellent cooperation from patrons with safety protocol.
“We didn’t have quite as many players as before, but the ones we had played hard,” quipped the Wildwood general manager. “People are really hungry for that casino gaming experience.”
Similar sentiments are echoed by other casino managers. Most gaming operators contend that the town experienced better business than expected since reopening on June 15.
Gaming operators couldn’t use as many devices due to social distancing requirements and safety standards imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some operators erected elaborate protection structures around slots and took some machines off the floor. Others limited the number of slot stools that could be used, which automatically limited the number of devices in play at one time. The Wildwood opted for the second choice. “We didn’t want to take away a favorite machine from a player,” said Andrighetti
The towns itself recorded less than 2,800 betting devices throughout the gaming community during the beginning of the third quarter, (which started on July 1), the lowest amount in recent gaming history in Cripple Creek.
As for future pursuits, the casino operators will continue to lobby to bring back table games. But the Wildwood general manager admits that’s an uphill challenge right now.
The Wildwood also hopes to open their new 100-plus room hotel, located adjacent to the casino, within the next five to six months. This is the first of a new array of forthcoming major casino/hotel projects. The Wildwood, though, plans to still keep running their Gold King Inn establishment.
The new hotel is aimed at catering more to Wildwood casino guests, according to Andrighetti. For more information about the Wildwood sportsbook, call 719-244-9700 or visit them at wildwoodcasino.net.