In light of recent downturns in revenues for Deadwood gaming operators, the Journal caught up with Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, on Friday and asked about business trends and what his industry association is considering to give gaming a rebound.
Q: In view of the August closure of the Midnight Star and the Celebrity Hotel’s filing for bankruptcy this week, has the luster dulled on Deadwood gaming?
A: Obviously we have had a five-year period of reduced revenues for Deadwood gaming, which we’ve tried to signal the alarm bells about. Any industry that has that period of decline in revenues is going to feel the negative impacts. We’ve seen it mainly impacting Main Street of Deadwood more than other properties.
Q: Are the closure of the Midnight Star and the bankruptcy of the Celebrity Hotel indicative of an emerging trend?
A: They might be. We’ve talked about New Jersey and what happened there as a warning for Deadwood. But we’re still at $100 million a year in casino revenues.
Q: What does the Deadwood gaming industry and its partners plan to do in the near future to counter flat-lined and declining revenues?
A: Obviously we have tried to address some of these things first with the Deadwood Revitalization Committee targeting a Main Street initiative. We’re now working with the City of Deadwood in updating its comprehensive plan. What the Main Street Initiative group has done recently is develop a gaming subcommittee, specifically intended to look at the issues with gaming revenues and ways to address those.
Q: Will the industry approach the 2018 South Dakota Legislature with draft legislation that might help the Deadwood industry remain profitable?
A: We have not made any decisions on a legislative agenda at this time. Over the years, we have approached Legislature with proposed increases to the hotel occupancy tax to give us more marketing dollars and 24-hour liquor sales, both of which were rejected. Then last year we worked with a coalition from the Visitor Industry Alliance, primarily with the Rapid City CVB, to change from a $2 maximum tax to a percentage of 3 percent on hotel occupancy taxes, and that was rejected by legislators. Our conversations in Deadwood now are what legislation would help Deadwood and be supported by a majority of legislators.
Q: Anything you’d care to add?
A: The Main Street of Deadwood is the draw for our visitors and a healthy Main Street is paramount to the ongoing success of the town. There is no doubt the two Main Street squares that have been proposed would be of benefit to the entire business community. We’re hoping to move those forward.