Teller County Released From State COVID Strangle-holds

Table Games May Return to  Cripple Creek; Restaurant Capacity Levels Rise

Rick Langenberg


After months of negotiations and a slew of proposed variances and pleas to remain open, Teller County may have finally struck a royal flush combination with the state.


Under the state’s new COVID-19 Dial system, Teller has been given a Level Yellow designation, which opens the door for much less coronavirus restrictions, a  verdict that could lead to more business re-openings.


More importantly, the lengthy local drought at local blackjack, poker and roulette tables could end, based on state correspondence received by Teller County officials.  In addition, the county is starting to move into Blue territory, a rating that could even lessen the Yellow restrictions and finally put the issue of casino table games to rest.


The latest development could set the stage for table games to return to Cripple Creek casinos for the first time in nearly a year. Plus, gaming establishments will be allowed to operate at a 50 percent capacity level, with a 175 cap per room.


This also could boost public gatherings throughout the county and delay last calls at area bars/restaurants.

In a press release, Teller County Commission Chairman Bob Campbell expressed optimism with the change.  “Teller County and the citizens are very happy for the relaxed restrictions and the opportunity to open up more of our economy while still respecting personal responsibility to keep our community healthy.”

County officials attribute this to “the efforts by our citizens to  mitigate previous levels and vaccination levels efforts by TCPHE (Teller County Public Health and Environment) and our local health partners.”


As of Friday afternoon, Teller was recording  a seven-day cumulative COVID incidence rate of  100 per 100,000 people and a 5.9 percent positivity rate (among those tested). In addition, the county has hit a good stride with its initial vaccinations with 2,441 doses delivered.  It also recorded about 1,200 cases since the epidemic started, with a  nearly 50 percent decline in the last month.


These are good numbers compared to late 2020, when the county appeared ready to face a mini-business lockdown period. The state was prepared to pull the red button for Teller, a signal that would have shut down all gaming establishments again.


“This is very good news,” said Commissioner Erik Stone.  The commissioner said he would still like to see the county be allowed to exhibit more local control and get into a position in which its health department could determine what restriction should be in place. That trend is actually moving forward, under the latest state action.


And based on these numbers, the commissioner stated that Teller is even moving in the direction that would allow the area to reach a Level Blue, which would almost equate to normal business operations. He also hopes that with the new rating, a number of popular eateries that temporarily closed due to the previous restrictions will reopen.


On a real positive note, the commissioners and elected leaders are happy about the probable return of table games to the Cripple Creek gaming community. They received an email from the CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) late last week, informing them of this possibility, but as of press time, they were still waiting for an amended health order. This timing couldn’t be better, especially with the implementation of Amendment 77 in the next couple of months. This law permits a laundry list of new games and calls for new limits on single wager bets.


Some see this as a game changer for the Creek gaming community and a calling card for more “high roller” gamblers who prefer the unlimited betting atmosphere of national gaming designations like Las Vegas. In a previous meeting, the city of Cripple Creek okayed new rules that completely did away with the $100 betting limits, per wager, and allowed for many new games. Under the new rules, there are no bet limits on individual wagers.


Since the first variance was approved for casinos in mid-June, local gaming establishments had to operate with one hand behind their back and fall further behind the main gaming rival in Gilpin County,  Black Hawk with no table game action.


Casinos in both Black Hawk and Central City have been permitted to have table games for some time, mainly due to low COVID incident rate in Gilpin, which is  much smaller in population than Teller County.


Teller officials tried to reinstate table action in Cripple Creek, but faced continual tough odds.


New Rules Established

Under the new rules, the following is expected:


*Restaurants may operate at 50 percent of posted occupancy indoors, excluding staff.

Indoor events may operate at 50 percent of posted occupancy not to exceed 175 people, whichever is less, per room.


* Outdoor events may operate at 50 percent of posted occupancy not to exceed 250 people, whichever is less.


* Casinos may operate at 50 percent of the posted occupancy limit not to exceed 175 people per room indoors, whichever is less, excluding staff.


* It is expected that the casinos will be allowed to operate table games in accordance with the new indoor event guidance.


Still, even with lessening of restrictions, Teller residents are advised to proceed with caution and to observe mandatory mask guidelines and social distancing rules. While the case load has dropped, the COVID death rate has taken an uptick with four new coronavirus fatalities in the last few weeks, according to Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris, who serves on the Teller County Coronavirus Task Force.


According to officials, Teller County is encouraging all residents and businesses to continue to take personal responsibility for their own health and help fight the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Those residents interested in receiving vaccination information please see which links to the interactive vaccination interest form. Additional information on specific sector guidance under COVID-19 Dial Level Yellow can be found in Public Health Order (PHO) 20-36 (as amended).