Friday, July 4, 2008


Went on a vacation to South Dakota the last week of June and it is a fascinating place. Wonderful trip but I will concentrate on casinos. When I travel I'll visit casinos and actually talk to the locals and the folks who work it them. Been criticized for that approach since I choose not to rely on the dueling data from the pro and anti crowd.

Deadwood was just that at one time - dead. In 1989 the economically depressed "city" needed some major help to the tune of about 60Mil. Now, they had a grand total of 311 residence living in Deadwood at the time and that probably includes the Jackalopes. The historic town was in shambles helped along by two massive forest fires in 1982 and 1987 but the state allowed limited gaming to pay that 60Mil for a rebirth. The timeline was 40 years and it took two. Never underestimate the willingness of folks to gamble.

Today Deadwood has several casinos. All are small and tightly controlled. Slots are everywhere and I got my "fix" at an antique shop and walked away up $15. The casinos are also built to strict architectural standards and are either existing renovations or new construction. The locals both praise and condemn the casinos. Without it the city would be gone but the price wears on the conscience of some. The whole idea of gambling. Crime is of no issue. Nor is traffic. Jobs are OK but nothing special. The poverty rate for the area is still high - Deadwood, Sturgis and Spearfish and several smaller communities. It has created much needed economic runoff. That cannot be denied. Population is around 1,300 and the main source of revenue is tourism, mining and lumber.

Near my hotel in Rapid City were several casinos. I mean several. I finally ventured into one and spoke with the manager. This one was about 1,200 square feet and was comprised of a bar and about a dozen or so video games. That is the standard. They are privately owed and licensed by the state with a 50/50 split. The manager of this one stated the company he works for "owns about 25 of them." Not impressive setup. He said it's "Just a job" and the real money is the tips he gets as a barkeep. No crime issue since these are virtually a mom and pop type of store. No real economic impact except for the money to the state. I noticed several for sale or closed in the RC area. Went to two others and got the same report. The ones I stopped at seemed rather seedy but I did peek at one at the Hotel Alex Johnson that had a better appearance.

At Crazy Horse Memorial I spoke with several Lakota Sioux on Indian Gaming. They were all disappointed in the end results. Felt they were better off with it but not by much. Their take: Watch out for the developers. I got a similar story from a tribal leader at the Wounded Knee Museum. Most successful casino was Rosebud which I did not go to.

The thing to remember about SD and gaming is that this is both a large and small state. Large in area and small in population - about 800,000 - so the gaming halls reflect that in both state sponsored and Indian.

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