Would you gamble more if you could drink longer?

Categories: News

ameristar casino.JPG
From Ameristar Casino-Black Hawk's website, a photo that may or may not have been taken at 3 a.m.

It's only been a few months since Colorado casinos have been allowed to operate 24 hours a day, multiply the previous $5 betting limit by twenty, and offer up craps and roulette games to folks with either enough money to lose or so little that they're willing to defy the odds to build the stack. But already, some casino bosses are lobbying for another change: the ability to serve alcohol anytime, including during the 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. window when all other businesses in the state are prohibited from opening up the tap.

Not the Colorado Gaming Association, though. The organization's Lois Rice says the CGA has more pressing concerns, mainly having to do with competition.

"Our areas of concern are always any threat of expansion of gaming to the Front Range," Rice says. "Over the past few years, we've been faced with potential expansion of Native American gaming, but also expansion of slot machines to Front Range horse and dog tracks. Those are our top priorities, because they could directly impact our business in an adverse way. If there was gaming available along the Front Range, there wouldn't be any incentive to drive to Black Hawk, Central City or Cripple Creek."

With that in mind, a campaign to keep the booze train running full time "isn't something we plan to pursue in 2010, and it's really questionable whether we're going to pursue it in 2011," Rice goes on. "Right now, we're just gathering information on liquor-service practices elsewhere, but at this time, the Gaming Association has taken no position on moving forward on this."

One reason: the potential for a prolonged and expensive campaign for passage. Rice identifies the pros of continuous pouring like so: "Our casinos offer a 24-hour entertainment experience, and some of our operators believe their customers should get all the amenities during that period." And the cons? "We know liquor service is a contentious issue to some folks. And we understand there would be impacts to the communities that host the casinos if those regulations were to change."

In the meantime, the CGA hasn't seen a big profit bump related to the extended hours, gaming limits and new attractions, which went into effect circa July. In August, revenues came in at approximately $69.7 million, down from $76.2 million the previous month -- and Rice doesn't anticipate an instant turnaround. "The September numbers haven't come out yet; we expected that they might be released last week, but they weren't. I think our operators are anticipating a similar experience to what we saw in August, though. I don't know that there'll be a further decline, but I don't think the industry expects that there will be a marked increase in revenues."

Why the slump? Rice blames "the effects of the economic downturn," but that's not all: "The industry is still recovering from the 2008 smoking ban. Getting over that is going to take some time." As such, "the Division of Gaming has told us they're not really going to be able to assess the increased benefit from the changes until the end of the fiscal year, when they can separate out old gaming revenue from new gaming revenue."

If things haven't improved by then, everyone may be ready for a drink.


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