Cripple Creek Wants Black Hawk Audited

Cripple Creek, Colorado wants a state audit committee to look into how Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek actually spend their annual allotment of historic preservation funds. Reports indicated Black Hawk has spent its share inappropriately, including spending money on the Ameristar casino (l.), clearly not historic.

The city of Cripple Creek, Colorado recently submitted an official request to the state’s Legislative Audit Committee asking for a complete review of how the gambling towns of Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City use their annual allotment of historic preservation dollars.

Cripple Creek City Administrator Ray DuBois said, “We are not pointing any fingers. We feel we have spent our monies appropriately and have stayed with the intent of what the voters approved in 1990. We are the model gaming community.” Key lawmakers are said to support a state audit regarding how the three gambling towns use preservation dollars.

Several recent reports have indicated Black Hawk has overstepped the guidelines in how it allocates historic preservation funds, including allotting more than $1.5 million in historic grants to enhance the properties of several elected leaders, including the mayor, within a five-year period.

State legislators approved the current revenue formula for allocating preservation dollars, with Black Hawk receiving most of the funds since its casinos generate the most revenue. At its peak, Black Hawk received more than $4 million annually in preservation funds.

However, the 33-story, 600-room Las Vegas-style Ameristar Casino Resort that opened in Black Hawk in 2009 has been considered a “game changer” for Colorado limited stakes gaming. Former state Senator Sally Hopper, who once represented Black Hawk and crafted the original gambling legislation, described post-Ameristar Black Hawk as “probably the most ruined town” in regard to historic preservation.

Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris said, “We are just asking for a level playing field.” He said if the state auditor’s office approves broader guidelines in the use of preservation dollars, then Cripple Creek will make major changes in how it allocates the funds.