Black Hawk aims to take a bigger piece of Vegas pie

Las Vegas has plenty to worry about these days, but here’s another thing to keep us up at night.

As the New York Times reported last week (see story here), a Colorado law taking effect this summer will allow the gambling burg of Black Hawk, 40 miles outside Denver, to significantly expand its casino offerings.

As of now, Black Hawk gamblers are limited to maximum $5 bets, and the casinos close at 2 a.m. As the Times says, these rules have “mostly confined the gambling action in Black Hawk to penny jackpots and Texas Hold ’Em tournaments with all the excitement of a church bingo game.”

But on July 2, the law changes to allow the casinos to stay open all night long and increasing the betting limits to $100. The casinos also can add craps and roulette games.

Needless to say, this is a game-changer for Black Hawk. In response, the town’s 12 casinos are improving and expanding their facilities. Black Hawk is looking to take a healthy bite out of Las Vegas.

Of course, a few Las Vegas-based casino companies are operating in Black Hawk and no doubt envision new profits from their Rocky Mountain ventures. That’s great. But I think the conventional wisdom of the 1990s — that “foreign” gambling is good for Las Vegas because it creates more gamblers — is losing its luster.

In fact, as gambling expands across the United States and abroad, and especially as those “foreign” casinos grow and improve into genuine destination resorts, it reduces the uniqueness of Las Vegas. These places are no longer training grounds for newbie gamblers who eventually must experience the real thing. They are destinations in and of themselves.

Make no mistake: Black Hawk, Colo., is no Las Vegas. We’re still the top of the heap when it comes to gambling-oriented resorts. But as gambling spreads, it’s like ancient Chinese torture to Las Vegas: death by a thousand cuts.