How ‘low’ is Colorado’s low-stakes gambling?

Aug 16, 2005 12:56 AM

Much has been made of Colorado’s "limited" or low-stakes gaming. But, exactly what is limited gaming?

Essentially, casinos, though smaller, don’t look much different than they do in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. They have most of the same slot machines, as well as blackjack tables and poker rooms.

The biggest difference, of course, is the $5 limit on bets.

Thus, the blackjack tables, Three-Card Poker tables and poker rooms don’t use chips with denominations any higher than $100 (black chips), while most of the action is with red ($5) and green ($25) chips.

Even though there’s a restriction on bets, there’s no such restriction on payoffs. Thus, the slots can pay jackpots comparable to any in Las Vegas, including progressive jackpots.

The gaming machines in Colorado are produced by the major manufacturers, including IGT, Bally and Aristocrat. They include reel and video slots, video poker and video keno.

By statute, slot payback must range from 80 percent to 100 percent (anything over 100 percent payback is not allowed).

Machines are available in all denominations, from pennies to $5. And the actual payback percentages are as good as any in the country.

For instance, nickel and quarter slots in Black Hawk returned 93.04 percent and 94.94 percent to players, respectively, while dollar slots rewarded players with 95.23 percent.

Those returns are actually higher than comparable slot machines on the Las Vegas Strip, which returned 90.06 percent, 92.20 percent and 94.39 percent, for nickel, quarter and $1 slots.

In the poker rooms, Texas Hold’em is the most popular game, as it is in nearly every other poker jurisdiction in the country.

Colorado casinos are found in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. The largest and flashiest casinos are found in Black Hawk. Some of the popular ones include the Isle of Capri, The Lodge, Mountain High and Mardi Gras.

Just a mile up the road, Central City has a smaller stable of casinos, though there are probably more historic sites to visit.

The same can be said of Cripple Creek, which features a railway system that takes travelers to many of the old mines and mills.