Deadwood Moving Beyond Gaming

Although casinos in Deadwood, South Dakota started offering keno, craps and roulette this summer, gaming tax revenue has been flat. To offer more than gaming and boost tourism, the city commissioned a revitalization plan to capitalize on its Gold-Rush history and place in popular culture.

Gambling began in Deadwood, South Dakota in November 1989, and more than billion has been wagered at its casinos since then, generating millions of dollars in gaming tax revenue that has been used to restore historic buildings in Deadwood and promote tourism statewide. However, although keno, craps and roulette were allowed this summer, gaming revenue has been flat. Governor Dennis Daugaard told CNBC, “Gaming is now ubiquitous nationwide, and Deadwood can’t just rely on gambling or its Western culture anymore. They need something else to bring in tourists for the first time and to bring them back.”

As a result, the city’s Revitalization Committee recently commissioned a 96-page action plan that offers recommendations to help promote its mid-19th century Gold Rush-era history and place in popular culture. Roger Brooks, whose tourism consulting firm wrote the revitalization report, noted, “The town has so many things going for it beyond gaming. Plus, with a name like Deadwood, it doesn’t get much better when it comes to being able to stand out.”

The report suggested Deadwood’s Wild West-themed streets become more authentic and pedestrian friendly, and recommended a central plaza where entertainment and activities could be offered. To that end, Revitalization Committee member Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, said plans are being finalized for two downtown plazas. Rodman added Deadwood is building a new welcome center and has installed parking meters that accept credit cards and cell-phone payments. “We also cleaned up our signage, put up baskets of flowers on the street lights and wrapped some electrical boxes to make them less visible,” Rodman said.

He added, “We developed 55 action items from the report, and have been busily working on making them happen”—as well as raising the $8.8 million required to move Deadwood’s revitalization plan forward.