Proposed Deadwood resort raises tourism and gambling stakes

South Dakota State Roundup

Published July 1, 1993  | July 1993 issue

A proposed $65 million, 85-acre Deadwood convention center/resort complex that could ignite year-round tourism in the Black Hills, has led to changes in the state's gaming laws.

The promise of that increased tourism led the state Legislature to support higher betting limits for Deadwood casinos from $5 to $100 over a two-year period and increase the number of gaming devices allowed from 30 to up to 320 per casino.

Actor Kevin Costner and his brother, Dan, who already operate a casino in Deadwood, say the increased gambling stakes are necessary for the resort's economic viability. The Costners say the proposed Black Hills Conference Center would create more than 600 full-time jobs and generate an annual payroll of about $12 million.

Also in the plans is a rail line from Rapid City to Deadwood that would raise the profile of the whole area, according to Dave O'Hara, acting commissioner of the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED). "Not everyone can afford conventions at a high-end resort," O'Hara adds.

And not everyone is thrilled about the prospect. Opponents have mounted a petition drive; if enough signatures are gathered by late June, a special election will be held in September that would likely determine the Deadwood resort's fate.

"It's important to distinguish between types of tourism," says O'Hara. Most South Dakota tourism occurs when people are on their way to somewhere else, and they spend only a day or two at the state's main attractions, such as Mount Rushmore. But the Costner project, as a destination resort, brings a "whole new level to the game," says Ken Schaack, the GOED's director of enterprise initiation.

Kathy Cobb