Roll the dice at Ute Theater’s Casino Night fundraiser this weekend

Rifle City Manager Tommy Klein deals cards during last year's Casino Night at the Ute Theater and Events Center.
Courtesy/Wayne Pleasants

Read ‘em and weep. The fourth annual Casino Night returns to Rifle’s Ute Theater and Events Center this Saturday.

By way of roulette, craps, black jack and poker tables, patrons are being asked to throw their chips all in the name of a good cause. Each year the New Ute Theatre Society (NUTS) uses funds raised from Casino Night to offer scholarships to local students pursuing the arts, Theater Director Wayne Pleasants said on Monday.

Recipients include students from Grand Valley, Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools, as well as Liberty Classical Academy in New Castle.

“They’re using it as a fundraiser for their scholarship fund, and they do anywhere from two to three scholarships,” Pleasants said. “They give scholarships to students going into the arts, music and dance, and theater.”

NUTS Board Member Anna Kaiser said this includes $2,000 scholarships for each student. Six students received scholarships from NUTS between 2021-2022, with another three students slated to receive scholarships this year.

Applications are available through the Garfield 16 and Re-2 school districts, as well as Liberty Classical Academy.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser event of the year, and we tried to find something special for adults after the holidays,” Kaiser said. “It’s a chance to get a little dressed up.”

“We all put on some of our sparkes, but it’s not a required thing.”

Casino Night, with doors opening at 6 p.m. at the Ute on Saturday, is typically run by Casino Party USA, a casino-themed party company. It provides the Ute with professional Vegas tables and dealers.

Last year, however, card dealers caught COVID-19 and couldn’t make it to the Ute Theater for its Casino Night. Among those stepping up the plate to fill in was former Rifle Police Chief and current City Manager Tommy Klein.

Though he admits he’s still learning, Klein is appearing for his second time behind a card table Saturday.

“I quickly realized my limitations and lack of skill in shuffling,” he joked on Monday. “It definitely slowed the game down, and I felt I wasn’t providing adequate customer service to the players.”

“I realize my shortcomings, and I’ve been practicing since the last Casino Night.” 

Klein said he’s glad NUTS is giving him a second chance because, no matter what he does with the cards, the event is for a good cause and it’s a fun evening.

“The New Ute Theater Society and the Ute theater staff work very hard on this event each year,” he said. “I appreciate everything they do for Rifle.”

Tickets are $30 and participants are given a pot of 200 chips in exchange, and they can purchase more chips throughout the night. They’re also eligible to win items like door prizes, Ute Theater tickets and gift baskets, Pleasants said.

Casino Night comes during a time when attendance numbers for the Ute have steadily grown. Pleasants said, since November, the Rifle venue has had five of the past six live performances sell out. 

Casino Night is no exception. 

“I think people are sick and tired of being locked in their homes and worry about their health,” Pleasants said of why sales are picking up. “They’re letting go.”

“People are beginning to let their hair down and become human again.”

Pleasants said the Ute already sold more than 100 presale tickets online and that it’s selling about 10 Casino Night tickets a day. There are enough gambling tables to host about 125-150 patrons. 

Tickets can still be purchased online at or at the door the night of the event.

“It’s a great annual event that the Ute is proud to produce,” Pleasants said. “It’s a good fundraiser, and it allows people to do something without having to travel far.”


What: Casino Night

Where: The Ute Theater and Events Center, 132 East Fourth St.

When: 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4. Doors open at 6 p.m.

How much: $30 (21 and older event)

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