January gaming numbers in Deadwood showed a strong increase over the same month in 2017. 

DEADWOOD | Bettors plunked down nearly $1 million in July on the new games of roulette, craps and keno, introduced for the first time in the quarter-century history of legalized gaming in this Northern Hills tourist town.

Statistics released Tuesday by the South Dakota Commission on Gaming revealed that bettors wagered $583,009 on craps, $391,793 on roulette, and $7,555 on keno during July. Overall, slot machine play, the bulk of Deadwood gaming, was down 1.75 percent, while the new games boosted table game action by 14.12 percent, the SDCOG reported.

An industry spokesman and the owner of one of five gaming establishments that offered the new games described the numbers as “very positive,” and said roulette and craps had invigorated Deadwood’s casinos.

“These new games represented 21 percent of the table game business and, given the limited number of locations offering roulette, craps and keno, we’re very pleased with that,” said Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association. “It was a good, solid month for Deadwood.”

Tom Rensch, managing partner of the Silverado/Franklin Historic Gaming Complex, which added roulette and craps July 1, characterized the first month with the games as “fantastic.”

“The people of South Dakota made a great decision to allow these games, because craps and roulette players are having a great time,” Rensch said. “I’m surprised how many people knew how to play craps, and they are obviously having a lot of fun and bringing a lot of excitement and new energy to the casino.

“They came right out and filled the tables,” he said.

Gaming Commission Executive Secretary Larry Eliason credited advanced training sponsored by the SDCOG and DGA with limiting any issues that might have occurred with introduction of the new games.

“I think the casino employees handling these games were ready for them,” Eliason said Tuesday from his Pierre offices. “I’ve been told by the managers who have these games that it changed the dynamic of the property, that there is more excitement, more group play and they have increased the energy in their table game areas.”

If revenues from roulette and craps remain strong, Eliason and Rodman predicted that additional operators would begin adding the games once the busy summer season subsides.

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“Some operators were cautious and they wanted to see these numbers released,” Rodman said. “Summer is so busy, and I believe some operators wanted to wait for a quieter time to train employees before introducing new games.

“I expect to see an increase in the number of operators with these new games in the next three to four months,” he added. “If we see this trend of roulette, craps and keno accounting for 20 percent of the table game business, which totals about $11 million per year, they’re going to want to share in that.”

But, some operators aren’t so sure.

Louie Lalonde, co-owner and general manager of the Saloon No. 10, was more skeptical and said the resources and space needed to offer roulette, craps and keno acted as a deterrent to introducing the games at her establishment.

“The first month of anything new will always be big,” the veteran bar owner said. “It will be more important to see how they perform in November and December when some gaming operations do struggle.”

If revenues grow, Lalonde said she and her extended family might re-consider whether to add the games. But for now, she’s happy roulette, craps and keno are building business citywide, and with Saloon No. 10’s approach to building business.

“We’ve never really been the place that has survived on gaming,” she said. “We’re more about great dinners, music, and drinks with friends. But I am very pleased that the new games are doing well for Deadwood, because it will help fund our continued work in historic preservation.”

Of the 15 individual gaming operations in Deadwood, Eliason said, one-third elected to offer one or more of the new games. Tin Lizzie/Four Aces and Cadillac Jacks offer all three, the Gold Dust has roulette, and the Silverado/Franklin has roulette and craps.

[Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect a correction. In the final sentence, one of the casinos was misidentified. Gold Dust is the casino that has roulette.]

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