The History of Gaming in Cripple Creek: Our Casinos’ Roots

Colorado’s history of gambling is a tale of risk and reward woven into the fabric of the state’s vibrant past. From the early days of frontier saloons, where cowboys and prospectors tested their luck at poker tables, to the modern era of sleek casinos and bustling gaming towns, gambling has left an indelible mark on Colorado’s cultural landscape. As prospectors flocked to the Rockies in search of gold and silver, gambling became a beloved pastime. Over the years, the industry has ebbed and flowed, shaped by shifting laws, economic booms, and societal attitudes. Today, Colorado stands as a haven for gaming enthusiasts, with a diverse array of casinos catering to locals and tourists alike. Join us as we delve into the captivating history of gambling in Cripple Creek, Colorado.

Early Days of Cripple Creek

Colorado was founded on adventurous and entrepreneurial spirits marked by the gold rush days of the 1800s. Today that history can be seen throughout the state, especially in places like Cripple Creek. The discovery of gold in Colorado sparked a stampede of prospectors, transforming sleepy frontier towns into bustling hubs of activity virtually overnight. This was no different for Cripple Creek when gold ore was discovered in 1890 at Poverty Gulch near modern-day Cripple Creek, marking the beginning of the last great gold rush in Colorado. In a matter of years, Cripple Creek flourished, boasting over 150 operational mines that beckoned prospectors from far and wide. Alongside the boom in mining came a bustling community, complete with a diverse array of businesses, including saloons, brothels, and gaming parlors. Gambling was common inside these establishments across mining districts in the West, and games such as faro, brag, three-card-monte, and dice games could be found being played in many of these businesses. Many of these classic games bear a resemblance to games commonly found in modern-day casinos.

Historic gold mines of the Cripple Creek Victor mining district in the Pike National Forest of ColoradoProhibition

As the 19th century drew to a close and the 20th century dawned, societal attitudes toward gambling began to shift. As the prohibition of alcohol became a popular movement across the country, this impacted many of these early businesses that gambling was popular inside. Law enforcement crackdowns, moral crusades, and the rise of more regulated forms of entertainment all contributed to the decline of the once-thriving gambling culture in the West. By the early 20th century, many states, including Colorado, had enacted strict anti-gambling laws, and prohibition had gone into effect, forcing many saloons and gaming establishments to shut their doors for good.

A Reintroduction to Gaming in Colorado

After 1900, the Cripple Creek area’s gold production declined, and by the early 1940’s gold production was down to less than one percent of what it once was. The last great Colorado gold rush had ended, and many of the mining districts across Colorado dried up. The Cripple Creek region once had a population of 50,000 people, but by the 1950s, only about 2,000 people still lived in the community. Mining towns across Colorado slowly turned into ghost towns, and by 1990, Cripple Creek had only 600 residents left. It was at this time that the state of Colorado voted to bring gambling back to 3 unique historic mining districts: Cripple Creek, Black Hawk, and Central City. This landmark decision breathed fresh life into these once-thriving mining communities, which had experienced economic decline in the decades following the end of the gold rush. The advent of casinos brought a wave of investment, development, and tourism to these towns, transforming them into bustling gaming destinations. Visitors flocked to Cripple Creek to try their luck at slot machines, table games, and poker, injecting new revenue streams into the local economy. The legalization of casinos not only provided a boost to tourism and job creation but also generated significant tax revenue for the state, funding various community projects and initiatives. The introduction of casinos in Colorado in 1991 began a new chapter in the Cripple Creek’s gambling history, one marked by innovation, economic revitalization, and newfound opportunities.

National Historic District view from the air in small Gambling town of Cripple Creek in Teller County, ColoradoTriple Crown Casino’s Roots

After the gold rush waned, economic hardship gripped Cripple Creek, leaving many of its historic buildings on Bennet Avenue abandoned and crumbling. The 1990 decision to introduce casinos into Colorado communities helped restore Bennet Ave, and today, Triple Crown Casinos operates inside a row of these historic buildings. All casinos were required to restore and maintain the historic appearance of the buildings, and each Triple Crown Casino has a unique allure that upholds the charm of the Old West in Cripple Creek.

The Midnight Rose Hotel & Casino

The Midnight Rose Casino, nestled on the historic Main Street of Cripple Creek, exudes charm and elegance. With its Victorian façade, this 9,300 square-foot establishment opened its doors in August 1992, welcoming guests into a world of timeless enchantment. Stepping inside, visitors are greeted by the original woodwork, reminiscent of the history of Cripple Creek. The attentive staff ensures that every guest feels like a VIP, while the state-of-the-art gaming rooms offer a plethora of entertainment options. Connected to two other casinos, the Midnight Rose offers a seamless gaming experience. After an exhilarating day, unwind at one of the onsite bars or restaurants before retiring to one of the 60 modern rooms located atop the grand Victorian staircase.

McGills Hotel & Casino

McGills Casino, inaugurated in November 1997, stands out as one of the best in Cripple Creek. Boasting 7,500 square feet of gaming space, this casino features an extensive selection of slot machines and video poker. The second level offers a commanding view of the bustling main floor, allowing guests to soak in the atmosphere from above. For a satisfying meal, patrons can visit the McGills Pint & Platter Pub, offering delectable pub fare and authentic Irish dishes. Whether enjoying a meal or watching a game on one of the large TVs, guests are enveloped in the rich history of Ireland. After a night of winnings and indulgence, retreat to one of the charming hotel rooms just minutes away from the action.

The Brass Ass Casino

The Brass Ass Casino, unveiled in June 2005, is housed in one of Cripple Creek’s most iconic buildings, steeped in Western charm. Spanning 2,600 square feet, it offers a quaint ambiance adorned with vintage street lamps and original signage from the historic Pool Hall. Named after the famous painted wooden brass donkey, a relic from the 1893 World Exposition, the casino pays homage to its heritage. Amidst gameplay, guests can refuel at The Miner’s Pick downstairs, savoring a variety of hot dishes and specialty beverages. Quick bites like pizza and sandwiches help get you back to the gaming excitement quickly.

Cripple Creek, CO Row of casinos on E Bennett Ave.

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