Community members listen Monday night to members of the Sleeping Giant Group during a meeting at Olympian Hall about the proposed casino near Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.

Photo by Scott Franz

Community members listen Monday night to members of the Sleeping Giant Group during a meeting at Olympian Hall about the proposed casino near Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.

Steamboat residents share thoughts on casino project



Learn more about the proposed casino project at the development group’s website

— At times, Monday night’s informational meeting in Steamboat Springs about a proposed casino in Hayden sounded more like a heated, high-stakes debate.

Steamboat resident Bill Cousins’ concern about a gambling venue’s potential social impact on the Yampa Valley was met with a swift round of applause from some members of the audience.

“Steamboat does have a family image, and just the context of gambling doesn’t resonate with me,” Cousins said. “I don’t think it resonates with most of us.”

Minutes later, a woman sitting a couple of chairs away got a round of applause for sharing a different point of view.

“I love it,” Hayden resident Chris Guire said about the proposal to build the casino a few miles from her home in West Routt County. “I think it’s an innovative idea. To bring something unique here I think is an incredible opportunity.”

For more than two hours, the community members who packed Olympian Hall eagerly raised their hands to find out more about the project and to simply speak their minds.

Some questioned the economics and ethics behind the proposal while others praised it for its potential benefits.

Digesting all of the feedback and inquisitions from the front of the room were the partners in the Sleeping Giant Group, the organization pursuing the casino.

“This activity makes us stronger,” Sleeping Giant partner Steve Hofman said about the meeting. “When people bring their heartfelt views to the conversation, we all benefit from it.”

Monday’s meeting in Steamboat followed a similar community forum in Hayden that attracted more than 100 people. The Sleeping Giant Group plans to travel to Craig next and make its pitch one more time.

Hofman and his business partners kicked off their meeting in Steamboat by acknowledging that community support, or a lack thereof, could determine whether their casino will sink or sail.

“We understand the governor will never approve an application (for the casino) unless the community comes together to say, ‘Yes, we want this to happen, and this is what it’s going to look like,'” Hofman said. “It is a complex, protracted, significant process and one in which at various steps in the process, all of the community will be intricately involved.”

Hofman wouldn’t say whether any residents in Routt and Moffat counties will end up voting on such a proposal like Hayden did in 1999, when residents there ultimately rejected a gambling facility.

Instead, he envisioned the governments of Craig, Hayden and Steamboat holding public hearings to gauge their constituents’ support of the project. He said that for the casino to earn approval from the state, leaders of those three cities will have to sign off on a memorandum of understanding with the Indian tribe chosen to own the facility.

During the Q-and-A portion of Monday’s meeting, Hofman often played defense as he talked about the casino and its merits. He was able to please some in the audience with the details of the casino he branded as an economic boon capable of adding nearly 1,000 jobs.

A marketing study done for the Sleeping Giant Group also predicted the facility could bring an extra 58,000 visitors to Steamboat each year.

But Hofman tried to assure the audience that the Yampa Valley will not become the next Blackhawk or Central City. He also clicked through polls and data that claimed most Americans support gambling.

Still, the casino has many hurdles to clear, and community members are likely to have more opportunities to weigh in on the project.

Steamboat resident Pat Thomas already has made up her mind.

“We’re hearing all about the numbers and the dollars and cents, but think about it people, this is going to change our community,” she said at the meeting. “And is it going to change it the way we want? I say no.”

While they engage the community, Hofman and the other organizers are talking with potential management companies for the casino. He said his group already has spent about $250,000 on the studies and preliminary groundwork for the project.

According to a timeline shared at the meeting, the Sleeping Giant Group hopes to select an Indian tribe to work with by the end of September. The prospective choices include the Northern Ute Tribe, the Southern Ute Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email


jerry carlton 4 years, 8 months ago

Once again I challenge the Pilot to put this as the weekly question. What is going on that is more important than this?

County commissioners, put this on the November ballot. How is the governor supposed to know if the people are for or against this unless it is put to a vote?


Robert Dippold 4 years, 8 months ago

Steamboat exist because of the natural environment, the state and national parks which is collectively owned by the citizens of Colorado and the U.S. Steamboat, as an entity, is not owned by anyone. The people of Steamboat make their money by leveraging the value of the national and state parks. I would suggest that the owners of land in Steamboat, such as myself, are nothing more than stewards of something much greater than their personal interest. I realize that a casino can create jobs for 1000 people. I believe that the world doesn't owe us the right to live and work in Steamboat. While we may be within our legal rights to have a casino, I don't believe we are being stewards of Steamboat, the purpose of the state and national parks by putting something in our midst that clearly doesn't fit with the green space that is owned collectively by all and used by many tens of thousand of more people than actually live in Routt county. Why do we go to such great lengths to create buildings that fit in with our heritage, have homes associations that require us to build houses that fit in our environment and then possibly approve something that clearly doesn't fit with the whole purpose of Steamboat? I think it is great to ask the citizens of Steamboat what they think about a Casino. However, I think it is very short sighted to not think about the tens of thousands of people that care a great deal about Steamboat but are not fortunate enough to live here. I understand the figures that show the amount of people that are going to come to Steamboat because of a casino. What are the figures showing about the numbers of people that won't come because the natural resources are now tainted?


rhys jones 4 years, 8 months ago

This is obviously a divisive issue; most people seem set in their beliefs and are unlikely to change, as it is all at this point conjecture, so I agree with Jerry: Put it to a vote, NOW.

That said, I thought I'd pipe in my two cents' worth: Bob: "doesn't fit with the green space" is somewhat of a leap, as the proposed space is not green space -- it's largely brown, and empty. I'll admit I haven't toured the proposed acreage recently, but it can't be more than ten or twenty big round bales' worth. The proposed architecture looked very tasteful and understated to me. One person's "tainted" is another person's "enhanced." Who is ANYBODY to say what the "purpose of Steamboat" is? You are only the steward of your deed.

The doubters foresee rampant crime and degradation of the community, while I would counter that I saw several casinos in Oklahoma recently, in nice areas and developments, tastefully done, and no more apparent disruption than a shopping center or amusement park. The proposed casino is far enough away from the ski area to have no immediate impact there, and I see it as just another regional amenity.

All this is so much squawk -- let's vote on it.


John St Pierre 4 years, 8 months ago

I could not make the meeting last night but I had 2 questions:

Their report talks about 10-12% tax paid to the State... Thats an understatement... Foxwoods Casino (largest in the U.S.) pays 25% from day one it opened.....who's gonna negotiate that part of the deal????

Community economic impact: There is no question that every dollar spent there will be a dollar not spent in Steamboat...... every meal eaten there is a meal not eaten at a Steamboat restaurant... Ask any business in New London or Mystic Conn what happen when Foxwoods opened.... Visit Tunica Miss. there is not a single business except for a Gas Station & a Motel 8..... Go to BlackHawk or Central City... count the business's besides the Casino's.... a gas station and Pawn shop..... a Casino is designed as a vacum cleaner to remove your $ in every fashion. $8-11 dollar an hour jobs do not create a stable economic base....

Put this to County Wide Vote so everyone has a voice in this......


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