Committee Approves New Deadwood Games

Roulette, keno and craps could be allowed in Deadwood, South Dakota casinos if the legislature approves a statewide referendum to change the state constitution that currently permits only slots, poker and blackjack. Supporters said the new games are needed so Deadwood can compete with casinos in Iowa and Colorado.

The South Dakota State Affairs Committee recently voted 5-4 to let voters across the state vote in November on a constitutional amendment allowing Deadwood casinos to offer roulette, keno and craps. Currently Deadwood casinos offer slot machines, poker and blackjack. The three games are aimed at attracting younger players. The proposed constitutional amendment also would allow tribal casinos to offer the three additional games, since federal law permits tribal casinos to offer the same games as other casinos.

Bill sponsor state Senator Bob Ewing said, “Deadwood is in trouble. Deadwood needs some new tools to put in the toolbox to draw more people to this state.” With gaming revenue down 3.8 percent in January compared to 2013, supporters said Deadwood needs the new games to compete with casinos in Iowa and Colorado.

Caleb Arceneaux, president of the Deadwood Gaming Association, said, “As we see a market suffering, we have to evolve with it. We have to do something. We have to adjust to changing consumer demands.” He noted when Deadwood’s first casinos opened in 1989, their only real competition was in Atlantic City and Nevada. Now nearly every state offers some form of gambling, Arceneaux said.

Dale Bartscher of the anti-gambling group Family Heritage Alliance, said the measure “will escalate gambling addiction behavior.”

The State Affairs Committee also voted 6-2 for a measure allowing casino bars in hotels with at least 10 lodging rooms to sell liquor around the clock, a move supporters said would help attract more conventions to the city. Current state law restricts liquor sales to 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

And the South Dakota Senate recently voted 22-10 to allow establishments to have 15 video gambling machines. The measure now will go to the House, which previously voted 40-28 against increasing video lottery betting limit. Since 1989 only 10 machines had been allowed.

The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Dan Lederman, said the additional machines would require new technology, but they would generate about $16 more per day than the older games. Video lottery wagering has dropped from 60 percent in 2002 to 42 percent in 2012, according to a Lottery Commission study. State government receives 50 percent of the net machine income and provides money for addiction treatment.

State Senator Ried Holien even if video lottery were eliminated, Deadwood and tribal casinos still would remain open. He noted, “This bill would actually help address the problem and help the state of South Dakota.”

State Senator Larry Rhoden said, “If the industry can’t survive because the numbers have dwindled, I say let it be.” He added gambling leads to “the devastation that has been brought to families” by suicides, attempted suicides, embezzlement and cashed-out retirement.