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Reopening of Central City casinos has mayor singing show tunes

Casinos are cleared to reopen in Gilpin County so long as they follow a number of requirements.

CENTRAL CITY, Colo. — Central City can sum up the recent past in a word.

"Sad," Mayor Jeremy Fey said.  

The closure of casinos 12 weeks ago meant the town lost its largest employers and 90% of its revenue.

"It’s been devastated both economically, and I think ultimately, to the fabric of the community, more socially than economically, it’s been really hard," Fey said.

But on Tuesday afternoon, the immediate future had the mayor feeling musical.

On his walk to city hall, Fey belted out a version of "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie" within earshot of Jeff Hentschel outside Easy Street Casino.

“[The mayor] among all people is very excited to get open because Central City is very financially dependent on us," Hentschel said.

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Hentschel is part owner of Easy Street Casino and Famous Bonanza Casino, both on Main Street in Central City.

He, too, was looking forward to Wednesday ... but not enough to break into song. 

“Tomorrow is the opportunity for all the casinos in Gilpin County to open," Hentschel said.

On June 6, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved a variance to the state's safer-at-home order allowing casinos in Black Hawk and Central City to reopen on June 17.

Hentschel and other casino owners have spent the past several days preparing to open their doors for the first time in months.

“We’re hoping that there’s going to be a lot of people who want to come up and really we hope that everyone coming up is patient and understanding that this all new territory for us," Hentschel said.

Casinos in Gilpin County may reopen at 8 a.m. Wednesday if they meet the following requirements:

  • In order to achieve six feet of social distancing, the limit pursuant to the variance is 50% of the posted occupancy code limit ensuring a minimum 28 square feet per person not to exceed more than 175 people at any given time in a confined indoor space, and 250 people in any outdoor setting.
  • Employees and contracted workers shall be monitored daily for symptoms, and symptomatic employees shall be excluded from the workplace and isolated until they are fever-free for 72 hours, other symptoms have improved, and at least 10 days have passed since they became symptomatic.
  • Provide accommodations for employees at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who remain encouraged to follow the Stay at Home requirements.
  • Require signage on doors telling guests that are experiencing COVID-like symptoms not to enter, and recommend that the sign posted at the door is the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] sign.

Hentschel said all visitors and staff will have to wear masks and will have their temperatures checked at the door. 

“Everyone has to have a temperature below 100.4 to enter," he said.

Plastic barriers will be put in place and Hentschel said every other slot machine will be turned off to ensure guests can maintain distance from each other.

For now, only slot machines will be open. Table games have yet to be approved.

Gambling will be different, but Central City is hopeful the crowds will be back.

“Tomorrow is going to be a big day," Fey said. "It’s very important to really the existential future of the city.”

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