In what is expected to increase city tax revenue by $1.8 million, a plan to expand Bronco Billy’s Casino has been approved by the Cripple Creek City Council despite opposition from a small group of residents and three of the casinos largest competitors who are concerned that the plan’s design deviates from the city’s historic preservation ordinance.
Submitted by Bronco Billy’s owner, Full House Resorts, Inc., the $70 million proposal which includes a six-story hotel with 200 guestrooms along with a conference center and a parking garage, falls under the guidelines of a never-used provision of a Project of Special Merit ordinance, according to The Gazette.
However, the owners of rival casinos including Century Casino & Hotel, Wildwood Casino and Triple Crown casinos argue that the glass and metal design of the project would not blend well with the former gold mining camp’s 12 casinos which now occupy many historic buildings.
Bill Gray, Director of Planning and Community Development, said that the expansion proposal was submitted by the Las Vegas-based casino developer and operator [Full House Resorts] under the special ordinance, which while having existed in city code since 1991, has yet to be used, as reported by the news agency.
According to the provisions contained within the Project of Special Merit ordinance, so long as the plan’s designs are compatible with the 19th century architecture of the city, new construction is allowed.
Attorney for Full House Resorts, Carolyn White, reportedly said that the word “compatible” is primary and that it is specifically stated in the ordinance that the construction of reproductions of the town’s 19th century buildings is not the intent, but rather to encourage development that is complementary to the existing architecture.
While the gaming town has, since gaming was legalized there in 1991, tried to adhere to its historic preservation mandate and rely on more than just tax revenue from its casinos, Full House CEO Dan Lee reportedly said that the city located about 44 miles southwest of Colorado Springs has yet to realize its full potential. Planned to be completed in 2020, Lee said he believes the Bronco Billy’s redevelopment project will help make that happen, according to the news agency.
Lee further explained that while the town receives approximately 1.5 million visitors annually, there are only overnight accommodations for 15% of those visitors. He said that after gambling for approximately three hours, the average visitor to the historic city then leaves, having contributed little to entertainment, retail or dining revenues. The result, he said, is that more than half of Cripple Creek’s economy comes from gaming, with only a few other resources.
Lee reportedly went on to say that in other casino towns where there are more accommodations and entertainment, guests stay longer and their economies are mostly based on non-gaming revenue. While non-gaming space will comprise most of the expansion, less said that the tax revenue in the city is expected to see a $1.8 million spike, a significant 17.5 increase. Finally, Lee said he anticipates that between 300 and 400 new jobs and Teller County property taxes that exceed $600,000, would be added by just the construction project.
Beginning this summer with the parking garage, the planned construction will take place in two phases, with the building of the hotel starting the first half of 2019.
In May 2016, Full House Resorts, Inc. purchased Bronco Billy’s Casino from Pioneer Group, Inc. for $30 million, with the deal including ownership rights to the remaining portion of the city block where Bronco Billy’s is located, including Billy’s and Buffalo Billy’s casinos, as well as structures and adjoining land.