Deadwood Casinos Preparing For New Games

Most Deadwood, South Dakota casinos are excited about offering roulette, craps and keno, following approval by a majority of voters on November 4. But some smaller casinos still have reservations about the financial investment. The games could be available July 1, 2015.

The South Dakota Commission on Gaming has begun developing rules for Deadwood casinos regarding roulette, craps and keno. On November 4, 57 percent of Deadwood voters approved Constitutional Amendment Q, allowing the games. The state legislature is expected to adopt statutes officially approving the games when it convenes in January. City and tribal casinos could start offering the games on July 1, 2015.

Tom Rensch, managing partner of the Silverado/Franklin Historic Hotel & Gaming Complex, said, “This is very exciting because since gaming was first introduced in Deadwood, people have walked through the front door and asked, `Where is the craps table?’ Now we can say, ‘It’s right here.’ After 25 years, we can actually say we’ve got it. We will be offering these games the day they are approved. That’s our goal.”

Rensch, who manages two of Deadwood’s top-tier properties, with nearly 200 employees, 342 slots and 27 gaming tables, said adding the games will cost the company about $30,000.  He expects to add 15 to 25 employees to run them. “We will have intensive employee training prior to the introduction of these games. We’ll bring in outside experts to provide that training because we need to ensure that the integrity of the game is secure,” Rensch said.

At the Deadwood Mountain Grand, the newest of the town’s major gaming venues, General Manager Brad Hemmah said, “We think we’ll definitely want to start out with craps, and we’ll probably offer roulette, but our focus will be on craps to begin with. Keno is probably down the road for us. Everybody relates dice games to a complete casino, and it puts us on a par with our competition. These games will brighten our employees’ day too, because they add a new dimension to their work.” The Deadwood Mountain Grand offers a casino, restaurant and bars, a 98-room hotel and a 2,200-seat concert venue.

But not every casino owner or manager in Deadwood is excited to offer the new games. Deadwood Gulch Resort Manager Sue Hayes said officials there are assessing whether they will offer any of the new games. And at Saloon No. 10, the city’s most famous after-hours bar, co-owner and General Manager Louie Lalonde said the family-owned business has not yet decided. “We definitely couldn’t afford a craps table, to have the cash in the safe to pay out a really big winner. We’re just a ma-and-pa gaming hall. But, we’re looking into roulette to see if it’s realistic for us, whether it will fit into our overall plan. And, it’s great to have the option.”

Lalonde added, “Gaming was the real reason people came to Deadwood, along with the history, but gaming isn’t pushing people into Deadwood anymore. We really need to make sure people are investing in things that will bring people back to town. Maybe putting all your money into a new gaming system isn’t the smartest thing to do right now.”

She noted many gaming operators were waiting to review the gaming commission’s rules before determining whether or not to offer the new games. “There’s a large uncertainty over what the financial investment will be. Gambling is gambling, and there’s always the chance you’ll win. But if it requires a $50,000 investment in a security system, it’s unrealistic for a small operation to even consider it,” Lalonde said.

However, Deadwood Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Rodman said, ” I think we will be surprised by the number of smaller and medium-sized operators offering one or more of these games. There is a lot of optimism with these new games. This is some of the hope that Deadwood gaming operators were looking for.”