Colorado Casinos and Gambling

Short Summary:  Colorado, is extremely liberal when it comes to gambling laws.  In addition to land-based casinos with full offerings, the state has legal and regulated charitable gambling, live and simulcast racing wagering and lottery.  The only thing they presently lack are sports books as well as any legalized and regulated form of Internet gambling, but we expect those to be coming soon and in that order.

Colorado casinos were legalized in 1990 in select areas that had been traditional gold mining towns. The first casino was opened in 1991. 11 Casinos opened by the end of 1991, and in late 1992 you could find over 70 casinos spread throughout the legalized areas. Today there are just fewer than 40 remaining casinos.

Colorado is easily one of the most liberal states when it comes to gambling, as all forms of gambling are legalized, regulated and in place with exceptions to online gambling and sports betting. With that, Colorado has the following types of gambling available:

  • Charitable
  • Pari-Mutuel
  • Lottery
  • Casinos (Commercial)
  • Casinos (Tribal)

Other than flat fees for Charitable Gambling of 3% of all revenues, Colorado has a sliding scale of how much it taxes revenues for casinos. The way this scale works is that the amount increases as the casinos make more money. Here it is:

  • Charitable Events 3.00%
  • $0 – $2 Million 0.25%
  • $2 – $5 million 2.00%
  • $5 – $8 million 9.00%
  • $8 – $10 million 11.00%
  • $10 – $13 million 16.00%
  • $13+ million 20.00%

These are amongst the lowest taxes on casino revenues in the country, especially for casinos that bring in less than five million dollars annually and/or on the first five million dollars annually. In terms of percentage, this tax is well under those of Nevada who tax casinos at roughly 6.75% with an additional 1% in fees for a total of 7.75%:

In fact, the effective tax rate for a Colorado casino making eight million dollars exactly would look like this:

(2000000 * .0025) + (3000000 * .02) + (3000000 * .09) = 335000

335000/8000000 = .041875 or 4.1875%

Therefore, a casino that brings in $8,000,000 in a year, or a casino that makes their first eight million, still pays a much lower effective tax rate on those revenues than Nevada casinos.

If we add in the $220,000 tax from the 8M-10M level, then we end up with a total of $555,000 paid in taxes, which still comes out to only 5.50% effective tax rate.

Even when the casino makes its next thirteen million in revenue, which is a tax amount of $480,000 on the next three million, that is still only a total of $815,000 paid in taxes, which represents an effective tax rate of 6.27% (rounded), which is lower than Nevada.

It is only between the fourteen and fifteen million mark that the casino tax exceeds that of Nevada.

The Colorado Lottery is also offered to citizens and anyone visiting the state, and as with others, it is linked to the multi-state jackpots of Powerball and Mega Millions.

The State of Colorado also seems to have its legalized and regulated Commercial Casinos compete on perfectly fairgrounds with its Tribal Casinos. There is nothing that one type of casino can offer that the other cannot and the only rule really imposed at the Tribal Casinos is a cap of $100 on any bet, which is the same for those casinos actually regulated by the State of Colorado.

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Online Gambling In Colorado

Colorado is pretty clear on their stance as relates online gambling, according to the Department of Revenue website:

Internet gambling is illegal under state and federal laws. Colorado law prohibits the transmission or reception of gambling information by any means. The federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, signed into law in October 2006, prohibits online gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic fund transfers to place and settle bets. Further, the federal 1961 Wire Act also prohibits the use of wire communications in interstate or foreign commerce for the placing of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers.

Apparently unknown to the State of Colorado, the first sentence is ABSOLUTELY FALSE.

Internet Gambling IS NOT illegal under any Federal Law whatsoever, and to suggest otherwise is absolute nonsense. What the WIRE ACT in conjunction with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act actually does is makes it unlawful for a bank based out of the United States to knowingly transact business with an online casino that is based offshore.

Ask yourself this: If online gambling were actually a violation of Federal Law, then how could it be offered in New JerseyPennsylvania, Nevada (Poker) and Delaware? Not only offered, but Internet Gambling is specifically licensed and regulated directly through the state in those states. The United States would be trying to shut all of that down, except it doesn’t violate anything.

Moreover, the actual tenets of what the UIGEA does do also ABSOLUTELY DO NOT APPLY in those states. Your debit/credit card, even if it is a bank based in the United States, will accept transactions from those online casinos if you are within the state and they will also know that they are dealing with an online casino.

While it is true that Colorado makes unlawful any form of gambling that is not specifically enabled by the law, what Colorado wants to do has no bearing on Federal Law, even if they believe (for whatever reason) that Federal Law says something it doesn’t. I don’t know what the purpose of this fear-mongering is, but there is NO FEDERAL LAW WHATSOEVER that makes it illegal to gamble online.

At best, Colorado could have made the case that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), at one time, made it illegal for players to bet sports online. In fact, it was specifically for that reason that many overseas operators would not offer their sports services to players within the United States. However, PASPA has since been overturned and even that would not apply to players anymore.

With that, the State of Colorado currently has no legalized and regulated form of online gambling, but it has been bandied about here and there and usually dies a Legislative death. Given their otherwise fairly Liberal stance on gambling, combined with what the other states have done and/or are in the process of doing, it’s fairly likely Colorado will explicitly legalize and regulate this within the next several years.

The Colorado site then goes on to incorrectly say that UIGEA makes it illegal for a player to use a credit card to play online. Once again, that is not true at all. The UIGEA makes it illegal for a bank to knowingly facilitate the transaction, which is why online casinos often use third-party payment processors or otherwise conceal the actual purpose of the transaction. Don’t get me wrong, what’s going on with all of this isn’t exactly snow white, but the player himself/herself is absolutely not violating any sort of Federal law.

More than that, the UIGEA only makes it illegal for banks to facilitate transactions related to, “Unlawful Gambling,” but then it goes on to specifically state that what constitutes, “Unlawful Gambling,” is left up to the individual states. In other words, not that your bank would, but if the state that you are playing from does not specifically outlaw online gambling (or specifically legalizes it) then your bank wouldn’t even be doing anything wrong, per Federal law, even if it knowingly facilitated the transaction. Again, it’s left to the states themselves to decide what is or is not lawful. It is precisely for that reason that states may license and regulate their own casinos to begin with.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, bluntly, everything on that Colorado page as relates to what they claim the Federal law does is complete and unequivocal bullshit.

One thing that Colorado does get right is that they state that players would have no recourse, at least not through the state, if they gamble unlawfully and are taken advantage of. That part is actually absolutely true and is even MORE correct than what some other states say on the matter. In some other states, players who lose money gambling through unlawful means theoretically have the right to recovery of losses via lawsuit. However, as a practical matter with overseas online casinos, even if the court decided in your favor it would not have the capacity to enforce collection out of its jurisdictional grasp.

Perhaps another irony with what Colorado says on the above website is that, if you actually read the laws.

Every single law section with any sort of penalty would apply to operators, or those aiding and abetting the operators, but not to people who are just playing.

We have searched and have uncovered no instance of any arrest or fine of a person for behaving as a mere player in the State of Colorado and gambling in an unlawful way. This is especially true with online, which you would presumably be doing from your own home. In fact, the closest thing that we were able to find was an instance in which someone was busted for operating an online gambling site from within the state. That was a sports betting operation.

Colorado Casinos

The three towns in Colorado who are permitted to have casinos are Black HawkCentral City and Cripple Creek. This is not dissimilar from a state such as New Jersey which currently only permits the existence of casinos in Atlantic City. Most people unfamiliar with the codes would probably wonder why there wouldn’t be a casino in Downtown Denver, or something along those lines.

Many of the casinos in Colorado could be confused as normal storefronts given their small size, which is not really that surprising when one considers the incrementally increasing percentage tax rate on the casino revenues. The less money you make, the greater the percentage of it that you keep!

That’s not to say that there are not any large casinos in the state. The largest casino in Colorado, Ameristar Blackhawk, has over 1,300 machines as well as over twenty (poker and table games) total tables. However, by comparison, Binion’s is a fairly small casino by Las Vegas standards and has over 800 machines. Another comparison is gambling space: Ameristar Blackhawk has about 57,000 square feet and you can compare that to Resorts, which is not Atlantic City’s largest casino by any measure, which has 100,000 square feet of gaming space.

In terms of the tribal casinos, Towaoc (your guess is as good as mine on the pronunciation!) is home to the Ute Mountain Casino, Hotel and Resort. This casino comes with slots, table games and a bingo hall of 400 seats. In terms of scope, it’s comparable to a mid-large tribal casino in Arizona, but would not be amongst the largest.

In Ignacio Colorado, the Sky Ute Casino and Resort can be found. This is a great family destination casino/resort as it features bowling, an arcade, mini-golf and a playground. This is really more of a family friendly thing and the overall resort facilities would rival the tribal casinos in Arizona as well as the casinos in just about anywhere else. This casino features slots, table games, bingo and live poker.

The only horse racing track in Colorado is Arapahoe Park, which is located in Aurora. However, Colorado has several off-track betting locations for the purpose of simulcast wagering during horse season (which only lasts a few months) as well as the off-season.

At one time, Colorado had a greyhound track but has become one of the most recent states (2014) to ban greyhound racing completely. In practice, no greyhound track had operated since 2008, anyway.

Black Hawk Colorado Casinos

Black Hawk, Colorado has the most casinos in the state housing almost 20 gambling establishments. Just a short drive from Denver, Black Hawk is close enough for the huge population in the city to reach quickly but still keeps the casinos out of Denver. Here’s a list of the casinos in Black Hawk.

  • Z Casino
  • Wild Card Saloon and Casino
  • The Lodge Casino at Black Hawk
  • The Gilpin Casino
  • Sasquatch Casino
  • Saratoga Casino in Black Hawk
  • Red Dolly Casino
  • Monarch Casino at Black Hawk
  • Lady Luck Casino
  • Isle Casino in Black Hawk
  • Grand Plateau Casino
  • Golden Mardi Gras Casino
  • Golden Gates Casino
  • Canyon Casino
  • Bull Durham Saloon and Casino
  • Black Hawk Station Casino
  • Ameristar Casino Resort and Spa in Black Hawk

Central City Colorado Casinos

Central City, Colorado has the third most casinos in the state. Located just to the West of Black Hawk, Central City and Black Hawk almost form a single town. Here’s a list of their casinos.

  • Reserve Casino and Hotel
  • Johnny Z’s Casino
  • Famous Bonanza
  • Easy Street
  • Dostal Alley Brewpub and Casino
  • Century Casino and Hotel

Cripple Creek Colorado Casinos

  • Cripple Creek, Colorado is the home to the second most casinos in the state. Cripple Creek is located outside of Colorado Springs. Here’s a list of the casinos located there.
  • Wildwood Casino
  • Midnight Rose Hotel and Casino
  • Johnny Nolon’s Casino
  • JP McGill’s Hotel and Casino
  • Gold Creek Casino
  • Double Eagle Hotel and Casino
  • Colorado Grande Casino
  • Century Casino in Cripple Creek
  • Buffalo Billy’s Casino
  • Bronco Billy’s Casino
  • Brass Ass Casino Cripple Creek

Poker in Colorado

Legal poker is not as widely available in Colorado as it is in many other states. Even though you’ll find almost 40 casinos in the state there are fewer than 100 poker tables combined and almost all of them are located in Black Hawk.

The Golden Gates Casino in Black Hawk has 17 poker tables and the Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk has 22 tables. The Isle Casino and Hotel in Black Hawk also has 17 poker tables. Outside of these three casinos if you can find a poker room it will probably only have two to four tables.

Slot Machine Ownership

Colorado residents can only legally own slot machines manufactured before 1984. This allows antique slot machine collectors to maintain and add to their collections but outlaws ownership of any machines that may compete with licensed gambling activities in the state.

Many states that limit slot machine ownership set a period of time, usually 25 years, which opens up new opportunities to collectors every year. For example, in the year 2000, you could own machines manufactured from 1975 and before. In 2010 you could own machines made from 1985 and before.

Colorado has a set date of 1984 so collectors in the state are kind of stuck in what they will ever be able to legally own.

Unique Law And Warning

At this time, I would like to make it known to readers that the casinos in Colorado have a unique law that they do enforce, which can EASILY impact you and to provide you with a warning.

For more details, please refer to my article.

The long and short of it is that Colorado does not have a, “Finders Keepers,” law as it relates to casinos. That is not especially unique to Colorado, as Pennsylvania is a state with a similar law. What is unique to Colorado is the fact that they seem to go out of their way to enforce this law, all the way to the courtroom and getting fined, over trivial sums of money.

In addition to any fines, an individual found guilty would also find himself/herself banned from all Colorado casinos for a year.

This does not just apply to cash and chips, but also slot machine credits. In order to not inadvertently end up the victim of this very stupid and non-intuitive state bucks cash grab law, make sure not to put your money in on a machine that already has credits on it. The amount of credits doesn’t matter. Make sure that if there is more than $0.00 in credits on that machine that you notify security, print the ticket and take it to security or print the ticket and put it on top of the machine. My best advice would be to tell security and not risk printing the ticket, because for whatever reason, they are gung-ho about enforcing this idiotic law.

Conclusion + Prognosis For The Future

Colorado is and should remain one of the most liberal states of the fifty in terms of its gambling laws. With exception to online and the fact that sports betting is not available yet, every other form of gambling is legalized, regulated and offered by the state. Social gambling is legal within the state and the laws regarding charitable gaming are reasonable.

When it comes to the current online gambling situation for players, honestly, a player is more likely to get in trouble for accidentally jacking free credits on a slot machine in one of the land casinos than to ever get in trouble for playing online. While it does constitute unlawful gambling, there is literally no penalty specified for acting as a player and we can find no instance of any penalty ever being enforced for playing online. Just make sure you notify security about that seven cents on a slot machine in Black Hawk before putting your ticket in.

In terms of future expectations, Colorado is actively working to get sportsbetting going and online should follow within the next few years as more and more states get into it. The only way I could see online not happening in Colorado is if they decide it gives the huge casinos too big of an advantage.