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Historic Deadwood Celebrates 20th Anniversary of Gaming

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DEADWOOD, S.D. - In 1989, Deadwood launched a long-shot experiment to see if legalized gambling could save the town's economy and preserve its heritage.

Twenty years later, the answer is an overwhelming yes. To mark the 20th anniversary of legalized gaming, Deadwood is hosting a series of events that will celebrate this great venture.

"So much has happened to Deadwood in the past 20 years; this town has literally reinvented itself," said George Milos, executive director of the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. "We have a lot to celebrate."

Gaming has transformed Deadwood and South Dakota's economy. Thousands of jobs have been created as a result of gaming. State numbers show that more than $1 billion in revenue has been raised. And $88.6 million in taxes have gone to state government and local government, tourism promotion and historic preservation efforts across South Dakota.

The 20th Anniversary commemoration will culminate in a week-long event beginning Nov. 1, 2009 – 20 years to the day after gaming came to Deadwood.

Among the events that week will be a reenactment of the Main Street ceremony that kicked off gaming and a formal banquet to honor the people who two decades ago led the statewide effort to bring slot machines, blackjack and poker to Deadwood. There will also be educational programs focusing on the history and preservation of Deadwood.


December 1987 – The Syndicate Block, the historic building at the corner of Main and Lee streets, burned to the ground. The city's water system didn't produce enough pressure to effectively fight the fire. The fire was a wake-up call for citizens who wanted to save Deadwood's historic architecture.

November 1988 – A statewide campaign launched by the Deadwood You Bet Committee paid off when voters approved a change to South Dakota's Constitution to allow limited stakes gaming in Deadwood.

November 1, 1989 – In a showy Main Street event featuring Wild Bill Hickok (a re-enactor), the town of Deadwood launched its new gaming industry. At the time, casino-style gambling was limited to the state of Nevada and Atlantic City, N.J.

June 1990 - In the first eight months of gaming, bettors wagered a stunning $145 million on slot machines, blackjack and poker.

November 2000 – State voters approve a measure to raise the bet limit to $100 from $5, which was the limit when Deadwood gaming began.

July 2008 – During fiscal year 2008, more than $1.1 billion was wagered in Deadwood's 136 casinos. It was the industry's second billion-dollar year in a row.

Fast Facts:

  • Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok are both buried in Deadwood's Mount Moriah Cemetery.
  • After dedicating Mount Rushmore in 1927, President Calvin Coolidge participated in Deadwood's Days of ‘76 celebration.
  • In 1961, the entire town of Deadwood was declared a National Historic Landmark. It marked the first community to ever receive this designation.
  • HBO premiered the popular series "Deadwood" series in 2004, introducing Deadwood's most colorful historic characters to the world.



Lee Harstad, Deadwood Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-999-1876,

Wanda Goodman, Media & PR Manager of the SD Office of Tourism, 605-773-3301,


* All photos must be credited to the South Dakota Office of Tourism.

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