The worst-case scenario seems to be the reality.
This past Monday, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (DPHE) announced that all restaurants, bars, and large gathering places (e.g. casinos) will undergo a mandatory closure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The news was not surprising given the suspension of several major sports leagues this past week. However, it is nonetheless sobering for the state’s 40 casinos.
The critical blow: March 16 public health order shutters casinos
Up until Monday, Colorado’s casinos were churning along while keeping an eye on the news and notices surrounding coronavirus.
That all came to a halt when the DPHE issued a public health order. In the order, they called for emergency measures requiring the closure of several business types, including casinos.
“The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is working to stop the spread of novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19),” DPHE Executive Jill Hunsaker Ryan wrote in a statement. “At this time I find it necessary to implement emergency measures to close down all bars, restaurants, theaters, gymnasiums, and casinos in Colorado in an effort to protect and preserve the public health.”
The order went into effect at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning and will last 30 days. There is a chance that Ryan could rescind the order, according to her statement.
Colorado’s casinos have to shutter their gambling floors. However, the order allows for restaurants to stay open if those establishments can provide:
- Delivery service
- Window service
- Walk-up service
- Drive-through service
- Drive-up service
The DPHE’s announcement was a death knell for casino revenue this month and into the foreseeable future. The move compounded the misery casinos felt from the suspension and cancellation of professional and college sports across the country.
The first shock: NBA suspends its season
Fears of sports suspensions and cancellations lurked among fans early this month. Until this past Wednesday, those fears were hypothetical. Hypothetical, that is until the NBA shocked the world when it announced it would suspend its season. The announcement came in the wake of Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert testing positive for COVID-19 that evening. The NBA did not announce a timetable for return.
The suspension was a blow for Denver NBA fans, whose Nuggets were in third place in the Western Conference.
The second shock: NCAA, Pac-12 tourney closures
The very next day after the NBA’s season suspension, the NCAA and Pac-12 followed suit, and NCAA President Mark Emmert declared the cancellation of March Madness.
The NCAA said the following in a statement:
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”
The Pac-12 announced the cancellation of its tournament after teams finished all the tourney’s first-round games. The cancellation did not affect the Buffaloes, though. They lost their first-round match-up against the Washington State Cougars.
However, the March Madness cancellation was still a blow to the team. The Buffs had a No. 8 seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology rankings. Had the tourney continued, it would’ve served as a salve for the sting of their first-round exit from the Pac-12 tourney.
Looking ahead: What’s next in Colorado?
Predicting any timetable for casino and sports openings is virtually impossible at this point. The DPHE’s closure mandate is good for 30 days, but there’s no way of telling what the state will look like one month from now. For now, expect significantly lower revenue numbers for casinos and sports betting operators in Colorado.