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Study: Gilpin County May Be Hardest Hit In U.S. With 70% Revenue From Gaming

GILPIN COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)- A new study published in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today finds Gilpin County's economy will be the hardest hit from coronavirus of any in the country. Financial news website 24/7 Wall Street based its analysis on the fact that 82% of all workers in the county are employed in the leisure and hospitality industries.

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Cindee Spellman, owner of Dostal Alley Casino and Brewery in Central City, fears the economic shut-down that started last month could kill not only her business but the entire community.

"My grandparents came up here in 1958," said Spellman. "We're vested in the community, we care about the community."

It's a community built on the gaming industry. A total of 70% of Gilpin County's revenue comes from gaming. The industry employs about 10,000 people statewide and generated $125 million for the state last year. But, it has been excluded from all federal aid.

Gilpin County Commissioner Ron Engles says most of who live in Central City and Black Hawk work in the casinos.

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"Our food bank has seen about a four-fold increase."

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He became emotional as he talked about the future of the community, "It's our friends and neighbors going to be losing their jobs if these small casinos have to close."

The pain will be felt statewide.

"Gaming tax dollars fund the majority of Colorado's almost entire tourism budget," says David Farahi, Chief Operating Officer of Monarch Casino and Resort.

Tourism is Colorado's top industry.

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Farahi worries recovery will be slow, "People come to us because they want to escape, because they want to have a good time. If the environment and restrictions are such that they can't, then there's almost no point in opening."

Spellman says she's spent almost her entire life in Central City and can't imagine having to close her place and move away, but she's not sure how much longer she can hold on with takeout orders as her only income, "This is my home. I just pray for help."

Colorado Congressman Joe Neguse, whose district includes Gilpin County, has introduced a bill to provide $250 billion in aid to small communities like those in Gilpin. He is also working with Colorado's Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner to provide aid to casinos with under 500 employees, which is most casinos in Colorado.

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