The second week of February had miserable weather in some parts of the country. Snow storms, blizzards and swollen rivers reaching flood level made headlines from New York to California. But three articles in particular caught my attention. One was from *Connecticut, another **New York, and the third ***Rhode Island. In each case, the narrative dealt with extreme weather impacting a casino. It is uncommon to see one story on the subject, much less three, but the event itself is common for casinos in areas with severe winter weather. The articles dealt with the challenges. In Connecticut regular bus tours were cancelled, in New York the newly opened casino had greatly reduced customer traffic and in Rhode Island a couple braved the elements to get to a casino; it was an important place for them to go in the midst of the stress of a blizzard. To a casino, especially a small casino, those people are the best of customers. In time they become cherished friends because life without them can be nearly impossible.
Twenty years ago, a friend of mine purchased a small casino in Cripple Creek, Colorado. Cripple Creek is one of three historic communities in Colorado where casino gaming is legal. The other two, Central City and Black Hawk are near Denver. It is just an easy thirty or forty minute drive for the three million people who live in the metro area. Black Hawk is 8500 feet above sea level and it snows there in the winter, but the road from Denver is a modern four lane highway and the trip is not difficult most of the time. The casino business slows in the winter, especially during a storm. But some of those three million people continue to go to Black Hawk regardless of the conditions.
Cripple Creek, on the other hand, is at nearly 10,000 feet and an hour or more from Colorado Springs. The road between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek is a normal highway for half of the distance, but then it turns into a narrow, winding mountain road. It is a marvelous drive in the fall when the quaking aspens are turning yellow and very pleasant in the summer; but when there is a snow storm, it becomes treacherous. And Colorado Springs provides a much small customer pool than Denver; each individual customer is more important in Cripple Creek than in Black Hawk, particularly in the dark days of winter. Going to Cripple Creek in bad weather is a courageous act that only the hardy and dedicated undertake. Any customer who is willing to make the journey in a storm is special. My friend had one of those customers named Ted. For years Ted barely missed a day. He owned a business in Colorado Springs that was open from 8 in the morning until 9 at night. When he closed up shop, he got in his truck and drove to Cripple Creek. His patronage was one of the most important factors in the casino’s survival that first winter. So when I saw those stories from Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York, I thought of Ted. I know over the years my friend and his staff thanked Ted many times for choosing their casino as his favorite. But these recent articles made me want to thank Ted and all of the loyal customers like him who make it possible for small casino owners to keep their doors open.
*Forecasts of the storm had prompted the early cancellation of scheduled bus runs to Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun. Brian Hallenbeck/Judy Benson, New London Day, 2-10-17
**Whether it was the snow, the work day or a lack of buzz, Wednesday’s mayhem at Rivers Casino & Resort gave way to lighter crowds on Thursday…Weather may have affected attendance to a degree, as a winter storm dumped up to a foot of snow across the Capital Region. Brett Samuels, Schenectady Daily Gazette, 2-10-17
***The biggest gamble in play at Twin River Casino Thursday afternoon was whose car would get stuck in the parking lot on the way out. Debbie and Mark David of Cumberland were trying to find where the road, as they plowed their way toward the casino… Mark’s Central Falls factory closed at noon because of the storm. “Let’s go do something,” he said, when he got home. Debbie called the casino to see if it was open. Yes, indeed, came the response. Tom Mooney, Providence Journal, 2-10-17