Deadwood Casino Revenue Falls Seven Percent in February, HBO Movie Could Reignite Interest

Posted on: March 26, 2018, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: March 26, 2018, 01:39h.

Deadwood casinos remain on life support, and February certainly didn’t help their prognoses.

Deadwood casino February revenue
Deadwood casinos cooled off in February in terms of gaming revenue. (Image: City of Deadwood)

Data released Monday by the South Dakota Commission on Gaming shows that slot machine win fell 6.3 percent last month, and table game revenue slid 12.4 percent. Combined, casino operators saw gross gambling revenue drop 6.7 percent.

“Deadwood gaming operators still remain optimistic for 2018, despite February’s numbers backslide,” Deadwood Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Rodman told the Rapid City Journal.

Deadwood is home to 20 gaming venues, most of which offer several dozen slot machines and a few table games. Penny slots dominate the market and generate the most win for the houses.

Total adjusted gross gaming revenue (GGR) is taxed at nine percent. Casinos won $6.68 million on slot machines last month, and about $993,000 on tables.

Founded illegally on Indian land in 1876 during the Black Hills Gold Rush, Deadwood is perhaps best known for being the place where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered while playing poker.  

Deadwood Gaming

Deadwood casinos, the only place in South Dakota where commercial gaming is permitted, saw total adjusted gross revenue fall more than six percent during the 2017 fiscal year. But there was some optimism around town in recent months, as December’s taxable adjusted GGR totaled just over $7 million (up 32 percent), and January 2018 numbers climbed 15 percent.

February’s setback is unwelcomed news for the Deadwood gaming industry.

Last August, Kevin Costner closed his Midnight Star casino and restaurant after 26 years in business. The actor fell in love with Deadwood while on location there filming Dances with Wolves in 1990.

Costner said his “deep love” for the Black Hills and its “historical importance in our country’s story” is why closing Midnight Star was especially difficult.

Just a little more than two months later, the Hollywood-themed Celebrity Hotel and Casino announced it was entering into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Visitation Gains

Despite the gaming revenue slide, hotel occupancy rates increased in February. The Deadwood City Finance Office reports that hotels sold 564 more nights, or 1.3 percent more year over year.

Rodman hopes March visitation continues in the same trend. “With the increase in hotel occupancy … we are hopeful February’s gaming numbers are a temporary setback to a year of positive growth for the industry,” he said.

Visitation is of course critical to Deadwood’s gaming industry. With either tribal or commercial casinos now legal in all but 11 states, no longer are tourists flocking to the remote Black Hills simply for the slot machines.

Deadwood is trying to appeal to a wider demographic by stressing its historical importance. The town benefited greatly from the HBO series of the same name that ran from 2004 through 2006.

Gaming revenue soared from $70.37 million in 2003 to over $98 million by 2007, an increase of nearly 40 percent.

HBO confirmed last year it’s working on a movie adaptation of the series that is expected to begin filming in the second half of 2018. Deadwood creator David Milch says he’s already finished the script, and negotiations with the cast are well underway.