While many U.S. casinos are grappling with a slow reopening process, Deadwood, South Dakota, has jumped the gun. The town has now reopened 11 casinos after the COVID-19 closure, with plans to implement safety protocols for patrons and employees.
Deadwood is a historic Old West destination town, and saloons and casinos are part of the draw. But without tourism and casino revenue, the locals were suffering from cabin fever. So the Deadwood City Commission voted to allow businesses to reopen if they follow federal, state, and local rules to prevent coronavirus spreading.
Caleb Arceneaux, CEO of a hospitality group which runs Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort, Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort, and four hotels in Deadwood, said “Cabin fever’s real, and I think people wanted to get out and experience, you know, gaming again.”
And since reopening last weekend, Arceneaux’s casinos are turning a brisk trade at 85% to 90% capacity, pulling in many gamblers from surrounding states.
Social distancing rules in Deadwood dictate that reopened businesses must observe strict social distancing measures. That means six feet of separation between patrons in all bars, restaurants, and casino gaming floors.
Masks are not required for customers, but table game dealers must wear masks since they can’t maintain a 6-foot distance from all players. Craps and poker tables are limited to four players, and two slot machines between each player are shut down.
Casino staff will constantly sanitize the premises, even applying stickers to newly-sanitized slot machines.
Nervousness and Discomfort
Arceneaux said some of his first customers had some nervousness and discomfort when they started slowly streaming in. But once players were back at the tables, they began relaxing back into the game and having fun.
Deadwood was founded as a semi-lawless mining town in the Old West, and as such, bravado ruled the day. Deadwood saloons were not for the nervous or anxious, and discomfort was mainly due to muddy streets and bar fights.
Deadwood’s casinos hold a special place in the hallowed halls of gambling history, as Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed playing poker in one of them. His famous ‘Dead Man’s Hand’ of two eights and two aces was found in his hand after his assassination by a sore loser.
If you plan on visiting Deadwood, you’ll be sure to see the exact chair where Wild Bill died, displays of old pistols and cards, Old West gunfight recreations, and tributes to the legends of the town.
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