Q&A with gaming official

Mar 13, 2006 11:17 PM

A thirteen year veteran of the Colorado Division of Gaming — a division of the Colorado Department of Revenue — Don Burmania provided answers to questions about the unique Colorado market.

Q: What was the original vision of limited gaming in Colorado?

A: Honestly, we thought that the T-shirt and sweet shops that were already in place to serve the historical tourism trade would place a few machines in a back hallway, and that would be that.

Q: Why did gaming properties start to develop in contrast with traditional stores with a few slots; and later, why did larger properties enter the market?

A: It was really a simple matter of economy of scale. By the time a location met with our regulations (e.g., surveillance, cash handling, et cetera), the costs would become too high to justify just a few machines. This economy of scale is where the larger properties had an advantage. Major players such as Isle of Capri and Century Gaming realized the opportunity for a solid market if they could design and build to an adequately profitable scale.

Q: Why is the top bet $5?

A: This limit was established when gaming passed in 1990. The lower amount allows for the "games to remain a game" and also ensures that some of the smaller and mid-size properties can accept the action. Higher stakes would bring in "more serious" gamblers, and the gaming properties wanted to remain recreational. Therefore, no major industry backed, or legislative efforts have been made, to increase the maximum wager amount. Besides, a $5 wager on a slot device is still pretty significant and slots do serve as the bread and butter for the casino industry in Colorado.

Q: If there is a limit of $5, then why can one play multiple wagers based on the result of one hand on some games and play multiple spots (at the discretion of the casino).

A: Assuming all positions are bet at the maximum (7 positions times 5 betting spots times $5), a total wager of $175 is in action; however, each individual betting spot is considered a separate wager. This does not conflict with the $5 wager cap.

Q: How many individuals comprise the Colorado Division of Gaming?

A: There are 73 people, with about half on location in Black Hawk / Central City and Cripple Creek. The majority of individuals working at the Lakewood (Denver) office are involved in licensing and investigation. The field agents work directly with the casino properties.

Q: Can a casino have as many slots and tables as they want?

A: Actually only 35% of the building may serve as the footprint (i.e., the area covered by the games — machines and tables plus seating) and only 50% of the building can serve as a gaming area. Thus, the number of machines and tables is directly correlated to the size of the property’s total floor space.

Q: Why are buildings allowed to not conform to the historic architectural environment in Black Hawk?

A: Each respective town/gaming jurisdiction establishes its own development code, and is not affected by us. We are only charged with insuring the integrity of the games and the casino processes (e.g., accounting).

Q: What is your role with Indian Gaming?

A: We have what is called "concurrent jurisdiction." In reality, we do not interfere with the self-regulated Indian gaming properties in Colorado, nor would we become involved in an Indian gaming matter unless there was a major incident.

Q: Do you see another wave or expansion or the opening of gaming in new jurisdictions?

A: Besides what is on the books (e.g., the hotel tower with Ameristar), no major expansion is expected, and gaming is not expected to open in other locales in Colorado.

Q: If you had to summarize the trend from the expected few slot machines in the back of "mom and pop" gift shops to the development of major properties with multiple restaurants, entertainment venues, and hotels, what would you conclude?

A: Gaming has exceeded our expectations in Colorado.