Rock slide helping increase Central Citys gambling business - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

Last months massive rock slide is helping increase gambling business in this historic town, which was already benefiting from the construction of the Central City Parkway.

"Weve been smiling a lot more" since the slide, says Central City Mayor Buddy Schmalz, who is also a brewmaster at a nearby pub and casino. "Im laughing a lot more, too."

Since gamings beginning in 1991, Central Citys cozy, family-owned Main Street has been out-performed by Black Hawk, with its scene-stealing 49-cent breakfasts, BMW giveaways and mammoth casinos laced inside with strings of neon.

The main route to both cities, Colorado 119 connecting to U.S. 6, took gamblers to Black Hawk first and many stopped there without going the extra mile to Central City.

Last year Central City built and opened its own highway from Interstate 70.

And on June 21, 2,300 cubic yards of rock fell on U.S. 6, closing a portion of the road until September, pushing thousands of visitors to the new Central City Parkway and turning this old mining town into the new first stop for gamblers.

From January to June adjusted gross proceeds in Central City - the total amount wagered minus payouts by the casinos - jumped by almost 50 percent. It is the longest sustained revenue growth since Central Citys gambling heyday in the early 1990s.

Black Hawks numbers, meanwhile, increased by 1.4 percent during the same period.

Since the slide, vehicles have used the 8-month-old, 8-mile, $38 million parkway in droves this month, heading down the hillside and into parking lots. Parkway traffic has doubled from 4,200 vehicles daily to 8,400 since the rock slide, and city officials estimate that more than 4,000 people are visiting Central City each day, double the usual number.

Once the slide is cleared, if the city can keep visitors coming after the slide is cleared, the financial boost could cut into Black Hawks casino domination.

Black Hawk made roughly 90 percent of the $565 million in combined revenues between the cities last year.

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