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Not many people living in the Pikes Peak area have any idea what Cripple Creek was like before the "return" of legalized gambling there in 1991.

Deb Acord and I are among that group. From our separate perspectives, we saw how the small Teller County town with so much history had deteriorated by the end of the 1980s.

Gambling changed everything, and its evolution over the past 16 years has not always been smooth. Visitors are forking out an average of $7 million a day in various kinds of bets. But the number of casinos has decreased, with the "little guys" usually unable to make it.

Today, Cripple Creek is at a crossroads (cover story, page 15), with a new Heritage Center and other museums trying to cultivate year-round tourist appeal. It's an ambitious strategy, and the city's leaders believe it will work. Meanwhile, construction is ongoing for what will be the town's largest casino.

Other questions abound (Between the Lines, page 21), such as whether the time has come to consider relaxing the "limited-stakes" restrictions and perhaps attracting a broader clientele.

This could lead to a modern-day gold rush for Cripple Creek, making it even more appealing for people in Colorado Springs, no more than an hour away.

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