Casinos in the small Colorado town of Cripple Creek are reportedly cautiously optimistic about the future after the latest monthly figures revealed that they could be about to record their best year since 2004.

According to a Rick Langenberg report published in The Mountain Jackpot newspaper, the former gold mining town has so far seen its overall annual casino winnings rise by 4% year-on-year with Paul Harris, Finance Director for Cripple Creek, declaring in a recent local council meeting that the area has even made strides in gaining more market share from its biggest rival, Black Hawk.

Harris stated that coin-in and table drop rates for Cripple Creek were so far up by 3.8% or $27.6 million when compared with 2015, which represents the biggest increase in more than a dozen years, while the town’s casinos had additionally reported an 11.3% boost month-on-month in adjusted gross earnings for May to $11.46 million.

Cripple Creek, which opened its first casino in 1991, moreover saw a 12% or $17.4 million spike year-on-year in monthly betting action in May with a report from the Colorado Division Of Gaming indicating that gamblers had posted nearly $160 million in slot device activity for the 31-day month.

“Cripple Creek had a strong performance,” Harris told the newspaper.

However, some operators have questioned Harris’ optimism and proclaimed that the town’s casinos have a long way to go to reach the levels seen before the implementation of a smoking ban in 2008.

“In order for a record year, the city would need to generate $114 million in the last eight months of 2016,” read a letter to the editor from David Minter, operator of Johnny Nolon’s Casino and Colorado Grande Casino And Hotel, published in The Mountain Jackpot. “That figure would require an increase over 38% over last year. That seems beyond wildly optimistic.”

Cripple Creek is in need of some good news following the recent publication of an audit from certified public accountancy firm RubinBrown. The investigation revealed that the town could face major financial challenges in the future due to a nearly 30% decline in the numbers of betting devices housed inside its casinos since the summer of 2008.

Each of these machines is subject to an annual fee and the audit found that gambling-related activities now account for more than 70% of Cripple Creek’s revenues. Although local sales tax revenues had increased with the town currently in a better financial condition than many others, the auditors noted that fewer betting devices could lead to less money for the local government with annual expenditures already out-pacing revenues.

“The long-term solutions to these financial issues are for the number of devices in town to increase or the fee per device to be raised,” read the audit report from RubinBrown. “The fee charged per device has not increased in 24-plus years.”

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