‘Let’s go gamblin’!'

Pioneer file photo

DEADWOOD — Gunshots at high noon in front of the Franklin Hotel marked the 30th anniversary of gaming in Deadwood Friday.

The event was a re-enactment of events that occurred Nov. 1, 1989, which set in motion Deadwood’s rejuvenation and the start of 30 years of gaming in the gulch.

Immediately after the shots were fired by Deadwood Alive historic reenactors using the original pistols that started legal gaming three decades ago in Deadwood, a shout of “Let’s go gamblin’!” was heard from the crowd.

The program featured Deadwood Mayor David Ruth Jr. as master of ceremonies

Also in attendance were Melodee Nelson, chairwoman of the Deadwood You Bet Committee; Karen Wagner, vice chairwoman of the South Dakota Commission on Gaming; Louie Lalonde, president of the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce; Caleb Arceneaux, president of the Deadwood Gaming Association; and Jim Hagen, Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism.

Nelson said if they haven’t been already, the Deadwood You Bet Committee members – herself, Tom Blair, Linda Blair, Bill Walsh, David Larson, Mary Dunne, Mike Trucano, and Betty Whittingham, will certainly be forgotten over time, but their mission is not yet accomplished and the mission of Deadwood experience is not yet over. 

“Because Deadwood You Bet is living and breathing as we watch all the construction and all the new things happening in Deadwood,” she said. “We will always be watching over this little community, Deadwood. So thank you.”

Wagner said in 1989, another chapter in Deadwood history was started and one thing that has stuck in her mind is when the late Gov. George Mickelson met with the first gaming commission.

“His words were as the mayor just said. Keep it squeaky clean,” Wagner said. “And you know, you think about those four words. That really means something. And today, those four words, as I serve on the commission. Those four words are repeated often. And I think that brings a great deal of insight into the fact that gaming has been powerful in this community. It has helped to revive this community … congratulations and best wishes. Let’s keep it squeaky clean.”

Lalonde said when Deadwood opened the doors to legalized gambling, it could never have been imagined that 30 years later, $350 million would have been reinvested into the community.

“We would have never achieved the level of success that we have in Deadwood, had we not had the most dynamic Chamber of Commerce in the state of South Dakota,” Lalonde said. “With the expertise and dedication they bring to our events, they attract thousands of people that line our streets, fill our businesses, and as the numbers will prove, keep those slot machines lit up and the card tables flipping cards.”

Prior to introducing Arceneaux, Ruth said the crowd had heard from people responsible for having the vision to bring it here, the regulatory commission, and the visitor industry had been covered. 

“But obviously, we couldn’t continue to have gaming without the operators,” Ruth said. “And the Deadwood Gaming Association has done a good job of keeping the operators going on the same level, really putting this community first.”

Arceneaux spoke of looking back on the last 30 years and digesting the evolution of the market and how far Deadwood has come.

“It’s both exciting and heartbreaking,” Arceneaux said. “Business is tough. Businesses have come and gone. Consumer demands have changed. Product developments and industry innovation has paved the way for our success we see today … I’m excited to ponder what the next 30 years may look like.”

Hagen congratulated Deadwood gaming on 30 years and thanked everyone in the community for their partnership, friendship and support of South Dakota Tourism in the state of South Dakota.

“This community has put millions and millions and millions of dollars into the state’s coffers and especially into tourism. It has allowed us to enter new markets in this country and all over the globe. Just in the last couple years alone, this department has been able to enter the market of China for the very first time,” Hagen said. 

They have also expanded their presence in Australia, New Zealand and across Europe, he said.

Domestically, Chicago has been added as a new target market and it has been performing beautifully and the department has expanded its message in the Pacific Northwest, California, and Texas, ventures that wouldn’t be possible without Deadwood gaming, he said.

Hagen said that on the plane ride out, he read in Far & Wide magazine that Deadwood was just named one of the Top 40 communities in the country of residents under 10,000, along with other upscale communities across the United States, including Aspen and Telluride, Colorado, as well as Taos, New Mexico and Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

“So, you’re in good company,” he said. “From my perspective, I’m as optimistic today about the next 30 years as we have been about the last 30 years. We have had our challenges. We know that. But I’m gonna’ place my bet on Deadwood and I can’t wait for the next 30 years.”

Executive Director of the Deadwood Gaming Association Mike Rodman said Deadwood Gaming was the third legal gaming jurisdiction in the United States when gaming began Nov. 1, 1989.

“It is hard to believe 30 years have gone by,” said Rodman. “We look forward to marking this milestone by reenacting how it all started 30 years ago. Over the last 30 years Deadwood gaming has handled almost $24 billion in wagers, resulting in $2.2 billion in gross revenue. This has resulted in Deadwood gaming operators paying over $371 million in gaming taxes to state and local governments. The Deadwood Gaming Association and the 1,175 direct employees in the Deadwood gaming industry are proud to celebrate this historic milestone.”

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