Midnight Star back in business

A popular Deadwood casino, the Midnight Star, reopens today after it closed in 2017. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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DEADWOOD — Three old friends are taking guests again, as today, a South Dakota-based ownership group recently banded together to re-open the Midnight Star, Diamond Lil’s, and Jake’s, at 677 Main St. in a building formerly owned by Kevin Costner.

The Midnight Star Casino will open immediately today, following inspection by the South Dakota Commission on Gaming. Diamond Lil’s is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; and Jake’s will be available for rental for banquets, weddings, private parties and special events, with several dates already booked for August.

The property will be operated by Lamar Feed and Grain dba Midnight Star and is comprised of the following members: Seth Denning, Von Denning, Todd Thiesse, Blake Thiesse, Drew Muntefering, Mike Muntefering, Dusty Anderson, and Louie and Desirae Van Roekel.

Upon entering the property, it feels very familiar, as the Midnight Star gaming machines are still on the first floor, with the bar in the back; the second floor houses the gaming tables and a VIP area; the third floor is home to Diamond Lil’s; and Jake’s décor and layout remains largely the same on the fourth floor; while the fifth floor houses offices.

But new elements, meant to localize the property a bit more, readily present themselves upon entry.

Owner Seth Denning said the group wanted to keep the property a lot like Costner had it.

“We changed it a little bit to our own twist. The big thing was keeping the name,” Seth said. “So in the negotiations of purchasing it, we wanted to make sure we retained the name. The Midnight Star. Because it’s an iconic property for this community. We wanted to keep it rustic. We didn’t want to go with the modern. We wanted to keep it the western, rustic type.”

Owner Drew Muntefering said Costner did such a nice job when they originally opened the property in 1991.

“We wanted to retain what he did and keep it as classic and as nice and elegant as he had it,” Drew said.

“The main thing we’ve done is simply freshen up what he had already done,” Seth said. “We didn’t change the layout. We didn’t change anything. We just simply gave it a make-over, as far as freshness.”

Desirae also serves as the Midnight Star marketing director and led the charge in developing a new theme throughout the property, largely with vintage sports and Days of ’76 rodeo photographs, beginning on the third floor with Diamond Lil’s and putting a historic twist on the already familiar sports bar theme.

“I wanted to focus on old Lead-Deadwood sports,” Desirae said. “And I wanted it to be about Lead-Deadwood area, so I worked with the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center (HARCC) and they got us all the pictures and we were able to choose what we wanted.”

The second-floor theme focuses on another bit of Deadwood history.

“The rail system, because back in the early days, the rail system was extremely important in the Lead-Deadwood area and a lot of times, people forget about that,” Desirae said. “And we wanted to do something different, so that’s what we came up with was to focus on that.”

Seth said there will be roughly 60 tables and gaming devices on property – 48 of those slot machines.

Tables games featured are Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em, Three-Card, three different types of blackjack of which one is a free bet blackjack and one is a TriLux side bet blackjack, and roulette.

“We have a $10 chip, which is kind of unusual to town,” Seth said. “I don’t think anybody else has a $10 chip.”

The Midnight Star will employ 34.

“I think we have a young staff and we have an experienced staff, so we had a lot of good applicants when they applied here, got a lot of good candidates to start out with,” Seth said. “Whether it’s from the kitchen staff all the way down to the janitorial staff, to the dealers, the floor supervisors, from one end to the other, we have a very good staff.”

General Manager Terry Hauck will be at the helm with the help of Assistant General Manager Dave Buskirk.

Hauck, who has come out of retirement to head up the Midnight Star management group, said he did it for a good reason.

“A new challenge,” said Hauck, who has run eight different casinos during his career. “And I kind of missed it … I wanted a challenge and this has been a challenge. We spent a lot of money to rework some things, but we didn’t change the atmosphere. And we didn’t put in old games. It’s all new stuff. And we set all of our machines higher than the city average, so they’re going to win.”

The city average payout amount is 91% to players.

Seth said the group decided to invest in Deadwood after one of the owners who lives here half-time made others in the group aware the property was for sale.

“We started kicking it around and we just decided it would be a good investment,” Seth said. “We enjoy the area, enjoy the people, so we just decided to move the business out here and get this started again.”

Drew said after the group sold their last business, they wanted to make sure to stay in South Dakota and reinvest in what South Dakota has to offer.

“That was a very important part of what we did, because our business started in Colorado,” Drew said. “It was a big thing for all of us to keep that money in South Dakota.”

Seth said the ownership group originally came together as an investment group.

“We purchased a hog farm/swine farm and feed mill in Lamar, Colorado. That’s how we became Lamar Feed and Grain,” Seth said. “We sold that property, moved all of our … hog farms back around where we live, Mitchell and Parkston, South Dakota area. We recently sold those and moved to Deadwood.”

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