Colorado Guide To Legal Gambling

ColoradoColorado is always at the top of the list when people think about tremendous natural beauty in the US. The presence of the Rocky Mountains rising through the middle portion of the state creates dramatic beauty and excellent vacation opportunities.

In a way, the state’s gambling offerings mirror its natural beauty and history as a mining destination. Its two main gambling areas are former mining towns, and both of them offer a unique gambling experience — that of playing cards in a quaint resort, reminiscent of the Swiss Alps.

The only other place in the country that offers a similar experience is Lake Tahoe, and the lake on the border of Nevada and California is substantially more remote.

Online gambling

First and foremost, there is no online casino gambling or poker in Colorado at this time. Colorado’s land-based casino gambling is undergoing expansion, but that has not extended to the internet yet. In fact, the last time any sort of push for internet gambling (in this case, poker) occurred in the capital city of Denver, it quickly died before a vote.

However, Colorado is one of the few states to legalize daily fantasy sports betting, doing so in 2016. The bill allows most operators to move forward without much difficulty. The license and renewal fees are set by the governing body (the Division of Professions and Occupations), rather than by law, and small operators (defined as sites with less than 7,500 users) need not apply for a license.

Given this piece of legislation and Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012, it would not be terribly shocking if its legislature continued a gentle movement toward increased personal liberty. The tax revenues and the lack of cataclysmic social change due to these initiatives means that legislators are not feeling stung by the moves.

Sports betting

State voters spoke Nov. 5, 2019, as residents elected to pass Proposition DD, which legalized Colorado sports betting.

Titled H 1327, which passed through the Colorado House as well as the Senate Finance and Appropriations committee, the bill to legalize wagering required passage by public vote. Now, once the Colorado Division of Gaming crafts rules and regulations and begins accepting applications from operators, regulated sports betting could arrive by May 2020.

Sports betting will be limited to three areas of the state: Black HawkCentral City and Cripple Creek. Gambling is already legal in these towns. The Colorado Gaming Association has confirmed that casinos in these areas would have the exclusive right to integrate legalized sports betting.

The bill creates three permits: Master license, sports betting operator and internet sports betting operator. As such, online wagering was also legalized.

Current and likely online gambling operators

Operator Type of Gaming Notes
FanDuel/DraftKings Daily Fantasy Sports Largest DFS operator in the market – by far
Mile High Fantasy Sports (USFantasy Sports) Daily Fantasy Sports Local operator catering to more diverse market segment
Ameristar Casinos, Inc. Casino Established gaming provider in several regions

Owns/operates largest CO casino

Isle of Capri Casinos Casino Owns/operates several casinos, including two in CO

Already created in-house online software for website – transition to real-money site would be simpler

Social casino options

There is a preponderance of casinos located in Colorado.

The vast majority of these are centered around three mining towns in east central and southeastern Colorado – Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek. Of those casinos, Coloradans (and indeed, any visitors to the casinos’ sites) have the option of playing for free on eight casino websites.

Three casinos (Bronco Billy’s, Buffalo Billy’sB, and The Gilpin Casino) offer a portal to Double Down Casino, which is the largest social casino site in the world. Golden Gates Casino has a Play-4-Fun site, which offers patrons the ability to play some of the casino’s slot offerings for free. Finally, the two Isle of Capri casinos (Isle of Capri and Lucky Lady) offer their own branded website to visitors.

State casino operator history

The main portion of Colorado’s gambling locations are centered in three towns: Black Hawk, Central City, and Cripple Creek. All three are former mining towns that were on the edge of becoming ghost towns. However, in 1990, Coloradans approved Initiative 4 to the Colorado constitution, which allowed for limited gambling operations to be established in these three cities as a means for saving their economies.

The initiative was quite restrictive with regard to game selection, betting limits, and hours of operation for the venues. Only slots, blackjack, and poker were allowed. Bets over $5 were prohibited. Casinos had to be closed for large portions of the day. All in all, the amendment was perhaps the most cautious entry into the gambling market a state has ever undertaken.

However, in 2008, the voters approved Amendment 50, which expanded all three limitations. Craps and roulette became approved games. Casinos could stay open 24 hours a day. Most importantly, the maximum allowed bet was raised from the anemic $5 to a much healthier $100.

In the 26 years since limited gaming came to Colorado, all three towns have been transformed into quaint gambling destinations with decidedly old-timey feels to them. Casinos with names like Buffalo Billy’s, Doc Holliday, and Golden Gulch rose out of buildings reminiscent of Old West saloons (with a few exceptions, like Ameristar). In all, there are 38 casinos spread between the three locales, with the highest concentration of them and the largest casinos located in Black Hawk.

Casino locations

Black Hawk and Central City are located just a few miles apart, and less than an hour’s drive from downtown Denver. Cripple Creek is about an hour from Colorado Springs in the southeastern portion of the state. For Coloradans in the eastern half of the state, there are plenty of options, which is a good thing, since most of the state’s population lives on that side of the Rockies.

However, things are a bit more difficult for Colorado residents on the western side. The only saving grace is two tribal casinos. Both casinos are owned and operated by the Ute Tribe of Colorado. Both casinos are on tribal lands in the far southwestern portion of the state – not too far from Four Corners National Monument. Either way, Western Coloradans are faced with two-hour drives into the mountains.

Colorado is also home to three pari-mutuel facilities. Two of these locations, Post Time and Pueblo, feature greyhound racing, and the third, Arapahoe Park, offers horse racing. There are also several off-track betting locations throughout the state, including at Arapahoe Park and Post Time.

Colorado also offers a lottery to its residents and visitors. The state participates with both the Mega Millions and Powerball multi-state drawings. It also offers its smaller in-state game.

One odd thing is that the lottery commission offers a free flash game to website visitors. The game, called Infinite Luck, is both cartoonish and mystifying. It is impossible to determine the purpose or target market for this mouse-only game, but visitors can guide Lucky Larry to pick up as many coins as possible.

Notable land-based casinos

Property Location Casino Size Notes/Games Offered
Ameristar Black Hawk Black Hawk 46,534 SF Largest casino in CO

C, BJ, R, P, S, VP

Reserve Casino Hotel Central City 31,695 SF Home to Tony Roma’s restaurant

C, BJ, R, P, S, VP, 3C

The Isle Casino Hotel – Black Hawk Black Hawk 27,611 SF Connected to Lady Luck

C, BJ, R, P, S, VP, 3C, LR

The Lodge Casino at Black Hawk Black Hawk 23,951 SF Connected to Golden Mardi Gras Casino

C, BJ, R, P, S, VP, 3C

Wildwood Casino at Cripple Creek Cripple Creek 18,965 SF Largest Cripple Creek casino

C, BJ, R, P, S, VP

Ute Mountain Casino Hotel & Resort Towaoc 32,000 SF Larger of the tribal casinos

C, BJ, R, P, S, VP, PGP, BI, K, 3C

*Craps (C), Blackjack (BJ), Roulette (R), Baccarat (B), Poker (P), Slots (S), Video Poker (VP), Mini-Baccarat (MBac), Pai Gow Poker (PGP), Pai Gow Tiles (PGT), Let It Ride (LR), Caribbean Stud Poker (CS), Crazy 4 Poker (C4), 3 Card Poker (3C), 4 Card Poker (4C), Ultimate Texas Hold’em (UTH), High Card Flush (HCF), Mississippi Stud (MS), Texas Hold’em Bonus (THB), Big Six Wheel (B6), Bingo (BI), Keno (K)

State Legal Environment

Permitted/Offered? Notes & Restrictions
Land-Based Gambling Yes Available in four places only
Online Gambling Partial Daily Fantasy Sports betting legal as of 2016
Lottery Yes In-state and multi-state drawings
Charitable or House-Based Gambling Yes Bingo and raffles
Minimum Gambling Age 21
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