Table Games Return to Cripple Creek; Teller May Receive Blue Designation

COVID-19 Vaccinations Increasing Rapidly

Rick Langenberg


The nearly year-long card drought is over, so time to place your bets.


Local gamblers will no longer have to take a trip to the gambling towns near Denver for making legal wagers on popular card and Vegas-style games, as table action has finally returned to Cripple Creek, with COVID restrictions. Most large casinos in the Creek opened their table games, including blackjack, poker, roulette and even craps, last weekend.


This marks the first time since March 17, 2020 that table games were allowed to operate locally. Although local casinos reopened last summer, table action was not permitted in Teller due to the area’s high-risk situation with coronavirus cases.


Table action won’t work like it did before with limited seating at tables and much more stringent rules. Plus, some casinos may only have card and table games for certain hours due to the regulations.


Still, gaming operators will accept the rules, as they have been forced to operate with one-hand behind their back business-wise, as the lack of card and table action has put Cripple Creek at a competitive disadvantage, compared to rival gambling towns Black Hawk and Central City in Gilpin County.


Except for a short period, table games were permitted in casinos in Black Hawk and Central City, ever since gaming establishments were allowed to reopen in mid-June, following a three-month closure.


In addition, in a dose of even better economic news for Teller, the county may soon receive a Level Blue designation, which could offer fewer COVID restrictions.


These developments were announced at last week’s regular commissioners meeting, and were lauded by staff officials and county leaders as positive developments.


County leaders got the word recently that Teller was now a Yellow area. And this designation, and a new code system implemented by the state opened the door for table games, which in the past have employed close to 100 individuals.


Commissioner Erik Stone told TMJ the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment gave Teller County the green-light for table action. “We have been given the assurance that table games can be reopened. That is good news .We were told ‘you should proceed with the new guidelines,’” explained the commissioner.


And luckily for Teller, these new COVID rules permit casino table games, with restrictions, as long as the county doesn’t linger into the Red and Purple levels of COVID-19 infections.


The one final item missing, though, was an amended health order, reflecting this change. “We just needed to dot the final I’s and cross the t’s,” said Stone. He indicated the last headache local casino operators need is to open their table games, and then have to shut them down.


Teller officials had earlier received correspondence, phone messages and emails informing them that table games would be permitted under the newest state COVID coding changes.

However, it took the last week to make the adjustments official.


And the final details were reportedly worked out, as several of the large casinos opened up table action, at least on a limited basis, late Saturday morning.


Table games aren’t a predominant form of gaming activity in Cripple Creek, known mostly as slot country, but they add more color and excitement to the local gaming experience and entice more tourists.


And with Amendment 77 right around the corner (the law doing away with bet limits), table action is expected to attract more high rollers and give the town a more Las Vegas-flavor from a gaming standpoint. In fact, this amendment, approved by the voters last November, could change the face of gaming in Cripple Creek, or at least elevate their card and table games to an unprecedented level.


Living in a World of Blue

In yet another dose of good economic news, Stone stated on Friday that Teller is now trending towards blue-land, which means even less restrictions. He said the county had one day in the last week in which it exceeded the Level Blue area of COVID cases. “We are now in Blue,” said Stone.


This is a big change from the end of 2020, when the county neared a lockdown period.


Part of the good news for Teller and other counties is that hospitalization has been dropping. In addition, vaccinations for COVID have been increasing dramatically.


Last week, the county organized a huge vaccination clinic at the Woodland Park Community Church and at the county’s public health office.


Another major vaccination event occurred in Lake George, courtesy of UCHealth.

“We had one day last week that close to 1,000 people were vaccinated. Kudos to a lot of people. It was so heartening to see that,” said Stone.


The clinic, hosted at the Woodland Park Community Church, delivered 260 vaccines.

According to the report given by County Administrator Sheryl Decker at last week’s meeting, nearly 2,500 initial vaccines have been delivered in Teller County, with a growing amount of the plus-70-years of age population getting served.


Still, county leaders remain only cautiously optimistic due to the high demand for vaccinations. “Supply is the issue,” said Teller County Commission Chairman Bob Campbell. “It is inconsistent. Sign up on multiple lists.”


The county has started a vaccination sign-up form on its COVID webpage (click here to see related story).