The very name, Monarch, goes a long way toward describing Blackhawk’s gaming royalty. The Monarch Casino and Hotel is the town’s grand dame, standing out like a coastal light house on the narrow streets of this once mining boomtown, a town that, in its earliest days, was a slice of ‘the richest square mile on Earth.’ But unlike old New England light houses that once warned mariners about getting too close to rocky shores, this beacon calls them home, offering as fine a gaming and lodging experience as they can find this side of Las Vegas.
“It’s world class,” said Erica Ferris, Monarch’s spokesperson. By that, she means that any game---slots, poker, Black Jack, baccarat, Pai gow, roulette, even a sportsbook---that you want to play, you can. And you can do it in a safe, clean environment. Gilpin County Health gave it the green light to fully reopen now that COVID-19’s been brought under control. “Masks are optional,” said Ferris, but also adding that they’re still encouraged.
The expansion of gaming options became a reality when voters passed Amendment 77 allowing local residents in gaming towns to increase or eliminate betting limits along with giving them the power to approve any new casinos. The 2020 vote also lets cities use gaming revenues for community colleges.
Like the eponymous butterfly, the Monarch has emerged from, not only COVID but from its former self. It has transformed from its “legacy building,” and into a gamer’s dream, said Ferris. It has a warm, comfortably lit, expanded casino floor that features nearly a thousand slot machines, slots for every gamers’ budget, to table games, 24 in all. Ferris calls the expansion, ‘dramatic.’ “When we set forth to create, we knew we wanted something people were very familiar with.” They certainly got it, and not just in spades.
This reinvented, state-of-the-art hotel/casino includes a world-class spa that sits on its 23rd floor, three penthouses, four top of the line restaurants and a rooftop pool. “We’ll put our amenities up against anyone’s.” The restaurants each won Westword’s Reader’s Choice honors, a point Ferris punctuates with pride. The spa, she said, offers blue-ribbon luxury. “It has massages, facials, both in and out-door pools and in and out-door hot tubs.”
Like Las Vegas or any other gaming mecca, Monarch is open around the clock every day of the year. Gamers, slots or otherwise, can come early, stay late and win or, as reality dictates, sometimes lose but in an environment that is almost antiseptic. Cleaning staff regularly moves across the floor ensuring that the room remains spotless.
With a big Fourth of July anticipated, the mountain gaming resort is putting out the word that it also has job openings for anyone who thinks they might like to try their hand in the entertainment industry. No experience? “We can teach them,” she said. “We’re really focusing on finding engaging, interesting people,” said Ferris. For the right person, advancement is almost a guarantee. “We like to promote from within.”
The jobs range the gamut, said the 20-year veteran voice of the casino. The hotel has openings for cashiers, cleaning staff, valets, dealers and more. “Our wages are very competitive,” she added. As an example, housekeepers begin at “$19 an hour.” Some jobs pay more, some less. A few positions, said Ferris, are “tipped positions.” But pay for those jobs, including valets and cashiers, can easily result in pay that exceeds what they might make in a number of other hotel jobs. “If you’re interested,” said Ferris, there is probably a job that matches your curiosity. To see what jobs are open, she invites anyone to visit its website, https://jobs.monarchblackhawk.com.
Additionally, because the resort is remote, the operation subsidizes its bus program for those workers traveling from Denver. Ferris said a normal bus ride to Blackhawk would cost around $26. Monarch employees ride for $4. They also get a free meal during shift and full-time workers get benefits, “no matter their position.” For everyone else, the trip to Blackhawk is less than an hour from Denver via Colorado Highway 119, a road that wends its way through a picturesque Clear Creek Canyon or take Interstate 70 to exit 243, an eight-mile spur that leads right into the town. For those opting for the canyon route, be warned that construction may add time to the trip.
Like casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Monte Carlo or anywhere else, guests come from all points of the compass and that can create a basic communication challenge. But that’s not a problem, said Ferris. “We have team members from across the world who speak a variety of languages.” The foreign language spoken most often is Spanish but there are those times, she said, when they, like most similar operations, are forced to scramble to accommodate a non-English speaking guest. More often than not “we can find a common language that we can understand each other in.” That includes ASL, American Sign Language.
While a visit to Blackhawk usually means gambling, the town offers attractions that can take a person back to its earliest days, said Ferris. The town, which began in mining’s heyday in the mid-1800’s also has historic buildings, mountain hiking and biking and points of interest that can only be found at 8,500 feet above sea level in ‘the richest square mile on earth.’