CENTRAL CITY AND BLACKHAWK

The Gilpin Hotel Casino in Black Hawk is pictured on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

Casinos in Black Hawk and Central City will have to shut down blackjack, poker and other table games at 8 a.m. Friday when Gilpin County moves to a more restrictive COVID-19 status with the state of Colorado.

Gilpin County will move from Protect Our Neighbors, the least restrictive status, to Safer at Home-Yellow status, which bars casinos from operating table games, reduces the capacity of each enclosed area of a casino from 500 to 100 and prohibits alcohol sales after 11 p.m., said Ron Engels, a Gilpin County commissioner. El Paso County and several Denver area counties moved to Safer at Home-Yellow status last week.

Table games have remained closed in Cripple Creek since casinos reopened June 15. State officials rejected a request from Teller County officials that would have allowed table games to reopen.

"With case counts skyrocketing in Gilpin (County) and across the state, what we have is far better than being closed again," Engel said. The large casinos in both Black Hawk and Central City "have divided their gaming floors in several enclosed indoor spaces (increasing the casino's overall capacity) such that they are able to afford the overhead to stay open."

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment notified county officials Oct. 16 that COVID-19 case levels exceeded thresholds to remain in Protect Our Neighbors status based on rising case numbers. That included a new case rate (number of cases in any two-week period) reaching 32.2 per 100,000 people, the percentage of positive tests reaching 2.65% and two new cases being reported.

Since then, the incidence rate surged by 8.5 times, the percentage of positive tests has nearly tripled and 17 new cases have been reported. That would put the county in the next lowest level, Safer at Home-Orange, which would have reduced casino capacity limits to 50. The department said in a letter sent Tuesday to Gilpin County's commissioners that it is taking a gradual approach with restrictions but "reserves the right to move the county to a more restrictive level at any point" if case levels continue to surge.

The county would have to cut case and positive test levels for two weeks to fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 and fewer than 5% positive tests to return to the Protect Our Neighbors level.

Peggy O'Keefe, executive director of the Colorado Gaming Association, said Wednesday that the trade group has been "working very closely with Gilpin County officials, administrators and Health Department to put into place the best practices from the experience of casinos across the county and world. While we are disappointed that table games will be closed, we will work with the Health Department and hopefully get to a point where tables can open."

Table games reopened in Gilpin County about two months ago, when the county moved into the Protect Our Neighbors level that also allowed higher casino capacity limits.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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