Deadwood attracting visitors from around the country

Deadwood casinos are seeing a return of players from around the country while following social distancing rules. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD — For those working in Deadwood’s casinos Memorial Day weekend, it was definitely a defiantly busy one.

Most of Deadwood’s lodging, casino, dining, retail, recreational, and other properties opened back up with orders via city ordinance to follow COVID-19 pandemic precautionary measures, gaming in Deadwood looks a little bit different these days. And businesses are doing their best to comply with mandatory requirements.

Deadwood Mayor David Ruth, Jr. said two formal complaints have been lodged against businesses allegedly not complying with city ordinance since businesses reopened May 7, but to date, no citations have been issued.

“Officers have visited with both operators and customers to remind them to follow the guidelines, but no major violations,” Ruth said.

One complaint was lodged the night of the reopening and one complaint was lodged by an out of state couple a week after they visited Deadwood. Ruth said both complaints were addressed by law enforcement and in each case, businesses were found to be in compliance with city ordinance.

While some facilities opened as soon as the city lifted emergency ordinances enacted March 25, others delayed the opening of theirs.

First Gold Hotel and Gaming General Manager Steve Schaeffer said his property is just a week into the reopening.

He said people are visiting the casino floor, but road constriction immediately in front of the building, “it’s not helping.”

“There have been a lot of out of state visitors, along with a lot of local traffic,” Schaeffer said.

In order to comply with COVID-19 social distancing, disinfecting, and other precautionary measures to prevent spread of the pandemic, First Gold visitors are greeted with Pro-Tek Scanners, which cost $3,000 each and automatically take temperatures when patrons are asked to stand on an “X.”

“We are also offering masks upon request and we have only turned on a limited number of machines to try to maintain social distancing and sanitizing machines after they have been played,” Schaeffer said. “We have placed signs on machines saying that they have been cleaned. As of now, we have decided not to open our table games.”

“Memorial Day was great for our hotel occupancy,” Schaeffer said.

Celebrity Hotel & Casino Owner/Manager Ken Gienger said that lately, his business is seeing more customers.

“I would have to say every hotel in town is offering discounted hotel rooms rates, and I would have to say that in the 28 years I’ve worked in Deadwood I have never seen the rates this low for this time of year,” Gienger said. “Our visitors have come from North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, South Dakota, Canada, and Texas.”

Gienger said that to help with social distancing at the Celebrity Hotel casino, they were able to spread the vast majority of machines apart and posted notes on all machines to have patrons turn the service light on when they leave a machine, so casino staff can clean it.

“Our employees have also informed the customers on what to do,” Gienger said. “The employees do their best to observe customers who leave a machine and forget to turn the light on and we have players who have helped us by informing us when a customer has left.”

“Memorial Day weekend was very good,” Gienger said. “We are almost operating fully and hope to be operating completely full by the weekend. We are taking the approach to adjust our business hours to our customers. This seems to work at this time for us because Deadwood is not as busy right now as they have been in past years.”

Silverado Managing Partner Tom Rensch said business has been OK at his property.

“People are ready to get out of the house,” Rensch said. “Visitors are coming pretty much from our regional market. States like Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado.”

Rensch said he thinks the town of Deadwood is doing a great job of following the CDC guidelines and the city of Deadwood guidelines.  

“And our staff is doing a great job of helping people with social distancing,” Rensch said, adding that the Franklin Hotel was full over Memorial Day weekend. “People were excited to get out and enjoy the town of Deadwood.”

The Lodge at Deadwood General Manager Anthony Galbraith said the past couple of weekends have been as busy as before the pandemic-induced shut-down of Deadwood. This, without the offer of discounted hotel rooms or free play to entice business.

“We are getting a wide range of people from all over the United States, which is pretty normal for this time of year,” Galbraith said.

COVID-19 precautionary measures put in place at The Lodge have had mixed reviews.

“It has been well received by some guests and others go the other way,” he said. “Just depends on the guest.”

Nevertheless, Galbraith reported The Lodge was full both Saturday and Sunday over Memorial Day.

“It was a good weekend for Deadwood,” he said.

The Lodge at Deadwood is fully operational, except for the Grille and Poker Room.

“It is great to see people back visiting Deadwood and the Black Hills,” Galbraith said.

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