Already helped by its own highway built last year, Central City got a lift this summer when a rock slide shut down a portion of the interstate that connects to Black Hawk, thus diverting traffic to Central City.
The highway, U.S. 6, is expected to reopen in September. But for the past two months, vehicular traffic into Central City has doubled (from 4,000 cars to 8,000 cars a day) and casino revenues are at record levels.
Since low-stakes casino gambling was introduced in 1991, Central City and its homey, historic casinos have played second fiddle to the glitzier gambling halls in Black Hawk.
In fact, Black Hawk casinos earned roughly 90 percent of the $565 million in combined revenues for the two cities last year.
But Central City began cutting into that domination eight months ago when it opened its own highway, the Central City Parkway, which connects to Interstate 70.
From January to June, the net win amount in Central City casinos jumped 50 percent, according to state reports.
During that same time period, Black Hawk revenues increased 1.4 percent.
"We’re getting stronger and stronger as this goes on," Lynnette Hailey, Central City’s city manager told the Denver Post. "One person drives the road and tells another person, and that person tells 10 more. Eventually, people are saying, ”˜Hey, that road’s pretty nice.’"
And don’t think the folks in Black Hawk haven’t noticed a change.
Some casino bosses estimate business was down 15 percent in July. But most of Black Hawk’s community leaders put on a grin-and-bear-it face for their friends in Central City.
"You want the competition, but we don’t have to cut each other’s throats," said Richard Lessner, Black Hawk’s city manager. "We want the parkway to succeed, and we’re very glad that Central City is doing well."