Arlene and Sharon Hart window shop Friday afternoon along Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs. Downtown business owners have a wide range of opinions about the proposal to add a casino in Hayden, and some question its reach beyond western Routt County.

Photo by Scott Franz

Arlene and Sharon Hart window shop Friday afternoon along Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs. Downtown business owners have a wide range of opinions about the proposal to add a casino in Hayden, and some question its reach beyond western Routt County.

Businesses' reaction to Hayden casino proposal varies wildly

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— On Lincoln Avenue, the proposal to build a casino in Hayden is enticing.

It's also an idea doomed to fail. Or a curiosity. Or a welcome attraction.

It just depends on which business owner you ask.

Hotel owners, retailers and restaurateurs in Steamboat Springs have mixed reactions to the Sleeping Giant Group's proposal to build a casino 20 miles to the west.

The group of investors pushing for the gambling venue predict its project will bring hundreds of jobs to the Yampa Valley and attract tens of thousands of additional visitors to the area each year.

But many business leaders in town question a casino's reach beyond western Routt County, and the leader of Steamboat's signature tourism allure won't yet say what he thinks of the proposal.

“We've decided not to weigh in on this right now,” Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Diamond said Thursday. “We will at some point in time. It's just too early.”

Greg Koehler already has an opinion.

The owner of Rabbit Ears Motel said he doesn't think the gambling and entertainment venue will benefit his hotel on the south end of downtown Steamboat.

“People don't come to Steamboat to gamble,” he said Thursday. “My customers come for the outdoor activities and to do all the things they like to do in Steamboat. I don't think a casino is on that list, but I could be wrong.”

He added that he is concerned a new casino and hotel in Hayden could do more to take away from his business than to add to it.

Johnny B. Good's Diner owner Mike Diemer has a different view.

He sees a gambling facility in the Yampa Valley as an economic boon with the potential to benefit Hayden and Steamboat.

“I think it would tremendously benefit Steamboat businesses and bring a whole new clientele here,” Diemer said. “A lot of people are going to stay in Steamboat and play in Hayden, which is something we haven't said in a while, maybe forever.”

A shop owner a couple of blocks away from Diemer's diner sees the casino as an idea doomed to fail.

“I just can't imagine it's going to make it,” longtime Jewelry and Fossil Shop of Steamboat Manager Rita Heron said. “I think people here are broke enough without people tempting them to spend more money they don't have.”

Mambo Italiano's Andy George, Urbane's Mel LeBlanc and Bucking Rainbow Outfitters' John Duty were among the business owners who said Thursday that they don't know enough about the casino to predict whether it would benefit or detract from their businesses.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said she hasn't gotten the pulse on how the downtown businesses she represents feel about the casino, but she said she has serious concerns about the project's potential to restrict the labor pool.

She added the casino has the potential to absorb workers who commute to Steamboat from Hayden and Craig and potentially force local retailers, hotels and restaurants to pay higher wages to retain and hire employees.

In a public meeting about the casino last month, Sleeping Giant Group investor Steve Hofman acknowledged a casino in Hayden likely will increase labor costs in the Yampa Valley, but he predicted business owners would welcome that shift because it would carry with it more revenue and visitor traffic.

“Generally speaking, what the businesses are saying is, 'Look, if I have a greater demand for my services and products, then of course I don't mind paying more for labor,'” Hofman said Thursday. The casino "will help stabilize and regularize the labor market.”

While many in Steamboat have a positive or negative opinion on the casino, some see it as a wash.

Scott Marr, owner of Steamboat's Holiday Inn, doesn't think the Sleeping Giant Group's proposal will help, or hurt, anyone outside of Hayden.

“I don't think it will have a negative impact. It will just have no impact,” he said. “Hayden is kind of its own thing, and people who go to gamble go to gamble. I don't see someone putting together a combination skiing/gambling vacation.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

John St Pierre 1 year, 8 months ago

I would suggest that these merchants visit Blackhawk for example and see how many business's or lodging accomodations there are there.besides the casino's.. 0... none.... casinos designed themselves as vacum cleaners to suck in every dime...and keep you there till they do... not just Blackhawk... Bilixoi, Tunica, Foxwoods.... every discrestinary penney, dime, quarter,dollar spent there will not be spent anywhere else in Routt county......

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Kevin Nerney 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't think anyone has the right to put the kabosh on a project just because they think it's going to fail. That what the free market system is all about. If you have big brass ones and want to spend a bunch of money on this or that who's to say what will or what won't work. “I just can't imagine it's going to make it,” longtime Jewelry and Fossil Shop of Steamboat Manager Rita Heron said. Okay that's your opinion but if something is doomed to fail, let it in the meantime plenty of people will find work in order to get it built. Same thing with the 700 club, jobs would have been abundant until the money ran out and people got laid off. That's ok. enjoy it while it lasts.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said she hasn't gotten the pulse on how the downtown businesses she represents feel about the casino, but she said she has serious concerns about the project's potential to restrict the labor pool. She added the casino has the potential to absorb workers who commute to Steamboat from Hayden and Craig and potentially force local retailers, hotels and restaurants to pay higher wages to retain and hire employees.

So they opposite of that is let's pay our people the absolute minimum that we can get away with since they (the workers) can't get more elsewhere and we (the owners) can keep the profits. That's what started the union movement back in the day, employees got fed up. As the old saying goes "build a better mousetrap and they'll beat a path to your door. " If the casino pays better you can't blame the worker for trying to better their station in life by taking the higher paying job.

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Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 8 months ago

"[Hofman] predicted business owners would welcome that shift because it would carry with it more revenue and visitor traffic."

Would it? Or would it just move existing levels of spending around? In which case it doesn't bring any long-term jobs, drives other businesses under, reduces tax revenues, and increases crime. Which is why there's long been a line drawn between live and let live / do what you want with your money/property, and casino gambling.

If the project fails, how much do local governments get stuck with? Google "casino failures" and look what happens when local governments issue bonds for projects that disappear (like funding a dock for a riverboat that up and sails away). The upsides of this proposal stand to make a few people a whole lot of money, while the downsides stand to cost the entire community (in the NW CO sense), more so if the project fails.

But it isn't like we get a vote on this, it's more like if an overwhelming number of folks are opposed, that might stop it. Apparently we have Ken Salazar to blame for changing the rules to make it easier for Indian casinos located nowhere near reservations to be shoved down the throats of rural populations, whether they're wanted or not.

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Eric J. Bowman 1 year, 8 months ago

"In which case it doesn't bring any long-term jobs..."

Erm, better "in which case it doesn't bring any long-term net growth in employment..."

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Kevin Nerney 1 year, 8 months ago

Taking about bonds Eric the local gov't isn't going to but up a bond for this private enterprise, nor should it. As a matter of fact if the local city council would have required a construction bond for Ski Time Sq before issuing a demolition permit they would have plenty of money in the bank since nothing was ever built and the bond would have been cashed.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 8 months ago

Comparing SB to Black Hawk is sort of silly because there wasn't much in Black Hawk before the casinos.

I doubt a casino in Hayden will make much of a difference for SB. Gambling is too common for a modest casino in Hayden to affect SB tourism.

I think it will make a bigger difference for Hayden. I think biggest effect short term will be the uncertainty that stops other business decisions in Hayden. The possibility of a casino makes it far harder for someone else to consider building a motel that Hayden also has studies saying would be successful. And so on.

And this could persist because getting approvals of an casino off of reservation is still a difficult approval process. And if Colorado's governor is going to take on the established casinos by allowing competition then it makes more sense to go big and put it in a busy location along I70 or I25. So if the proposal advances then there is a real risk of it being hijacked by a town with a busier location. Thus, I think the odds of a casino being built in Hayden is close to zero.

But the possibility of a casino will dominate Hayden's politics and business decisions as long as the proposal is active.

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Bret Marx 1 year, 8 months ago

Tracy Barnet says... She added the casino has the potential to absorb workers who commute to Steamboat from Hayden and Craig and potentially force local retailers, hotels and restaurants to pay higher wages to retain and hire employees.

Heaven forbid the owners of companies pay there employees more money! C'mon Tracy. Can you blame someone for moving on to a job that gasp pays there employees a higher wage? If a business wants to pay it's employee cheaply then the employee should look for another job that pays better and I hope they find it.

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Fred Duckels 1 year, 8 months ago

Over the years the resort side of the ledger has fought to keep out businesses that would help diversify our economy and prove beneficial long term. Let's keep our one horse economy. I am against the casino because of the untold social misery factor.

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm skeptical that a casino could survive, but I have no objection to the effort and wish it success if it proceeds. I applaud the investors for putting their money where their mouth is. I think the only existing business that would suffer would be Three Wire at the airport. Can't see how Steamboat lodging & hospitality would be affected.

I'm bemused by this admonition: “I think people here are broke enough without people tempting them to spend more money they don't have.”

Extend that logic, and we should shut down liquor stores to eradicate the temptation. Then we can take a page from the Bloomberg/Michelle Obama playbook and ban soft drinks and fast food. Because the great unwashed can't be trusted with their own care and feeding.

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