Casinos in this Northern Hills city are betting this week's introduction of keno, craps and roulette in Deadwood will help reinvigorate the historic hamlet and level its odds when competing against other gambling hot spots across the country.
The new games, overwhelmingly approved by South Dakota voters in November and authorized by lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session, are set to begin July 1. Casino operators and gambling industry advocates believe the new games will bring a type of customer to the historic mining city who would otherwise have traveled to Colorado or Iowa in search of the popular games.
"It changes the image of Deadwood to being a fully fledged gaming destination competing on a national level," said Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association. "We're just excited about the games, and 8 o'clock on July 1, we'll be playing them."
While not every gaming hall would offer all three new games, Rodman said recently that the Silverado-Franklin Historic Gaming Complex, Cadillac Jacks and Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort were planning to offer roulette and craps, while the Mineral Palace and Gold Dust would offer roulette, and Tin Lizzie anticipated offering keno.
“Some of the properties are keeping it close to the vest, but that’s all I’ve heard at this point,” he said.
Rodman said the gambling industry is optimistic about a boost from the new games after roughly flat gambling revenue in 2013 and 2014. So far, 2015 revenues have grown by about 4 percent or 5 percent, he said, which is "not anything to jump up and down about."
A rough estimate for the amount of revenue the new games could add in Deadwood is about $2 million a year, but that number doesn't account for a boost in other benefits from more visitors such as increased spending on other games, Rodman said.
David Schneiter, general manager of Cadillac Jack's Gaming Resort, plans to offer the three new games, with roulette wheels and craps tables destined for a blackjack area on the casino's floor. Schneiter said casinos in Deadwood are missing out on earnings from people who would stop at a craps table to play if they saw one.
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"It'll make a difference in Deadwood," Schneiter said. "It's not just a slot machine, blackjack, poker market anymore. We've got everything."
Matt Smith of Casper, Wyoming, is a craps lover — just the kind of player Deadwood casinos are trying to reach. He said the decision to add the games has changed his perception of a "small little gambling town."
Smith, who took a trip to Deadwood in November, said he plans on returning in the fall with the same group of friends to see the new games.
"It definitely gives me incentive to want to go back quicker," Smith, 29, said. "It's definitely by far the most exciting casino game there is."
Tom Rensch, managing partner at the Silverado-Franklin Historic Hotel and Gaming Complex, also plans on offering craps and roulette on July 1. Customers have been asking for the games for years, he said, adding that the games should encourage more people to travel to Deadwood and grow the market.
He thanked South Dakota voters for embracing the new games. In November, 57 percent of voters approved constitutional Amendment Q, which gave the Legislature the authority to implement the games in Deadwood and at tribal casinos.
Schneiter said he's excited about the new opportunity.
"Absolutely, I am," he said, setting down three dice on his desk. "It's fun."