Deadwood, the South Dakota city where the last US commercial casinos were ordered to close due to COVID-19 pandemic, is already seeing visitors after the majority of its casinos reopened Thursday.
The Deadwood City Commission voted last Monday to allow businesses to reopen if they follow federal, state and local protocols for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. This vote came after the Deadwood Gaming Association’s data for March gaming revenue showed a decrease of 20.14% compared to March 2019. Slots were down 18.17%; table games down 44.38%. Taxable adjusted gross revenues for March were $6,142,060.
"As the numbers reflect, Deadwood’s economy was on pace with last year until March 25 when our world changed with the COVID-19 pandemic and Deadwood shut down,” said Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, as reported by Rapid City Journal. "The loss in just gaming revenue for Deadwood’s gaming properties was over $1.5 million for the last seven days in March that we were closed.”
Rodman said the reopening on Thursday was a new experience for everyone, but it went well considering the changes brought on by the pandemic. “There are people slowly coming back to the properties and dealing with the new policies and procedures for social distancing,” he said. “People are just happy the properties reopened.”
Deadwood Mayor David Ruth said Friday that the bulk of the city’s revenue from the gaming industry goes to historic preservation in Deadwood. He noted that some city departments made budget cuts after the casinos were closed for less than two months.
Caleb Arceneaux, CEO of LIV Hospitality that manages the hotels at Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort and Cadillac Jack’s, said Friday that business has gone well so far with the reopening, noting guests have been respectful and appreciative of the safety measures taken. “We certainly experienced an increase in hotel occupancy and saw a steady stream of players,” Arceneaux said, noting approximately 70 percent of staff was called back to work Thursday. He anticipated the entire staff would return in 10-14 days.
LIV’s casinos have rolled-out a “2 in between” policy for non in-household slot players. Guests must maintain a space of two slot machines between the adjacent player. Hand sanitizer stations will be set up throughout casinos. Table games will be limited to between two and four players, depending on the game, he said. Employees will be provided with personal protective equipment, but Arceneaux said it’s not a requirement for staff except for those running table games. Guests do not have to wear masks but many do, he said.
David Schneiter, general manager of Cadillac Jack’s, said Thursday’s play was “better than a typical Thursday” at the casino, noting there was good foot traffic. He said 180 employees were called back to work on Thursday.
Schneiter said slots will be sanitized by staff after each player. Stickers will go on the machines after each round of cleaning. The stickers will state that the machine is clean, and guests will have to remove them before they play. Then, when they’re done, staff will know to clean that machine, Schneiter said.