Casinos in Deadwood, South Dakota are opening up again, complete with pictures of enthusiastic gamers clad in masks as they crowd around card and dice tables.
Casinos in Deadwood were the last in the country to close down amid the coronavirus pandemic and now 11 of them are reopening, including numerous ones run by Liv Hospitality, where officials reported higher activity than usual for a weekend.
The official explanation, according to CEO Caleb Arceneaux, is cabin fever. “I think people wanted to get out and experience, you know, gaming again,” he said, according to CNBC.
Liv Hospitality, a family business, owns and operates Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort and Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort and four hotels in Deadwood.
Arceneaux said the weekend had seen a turnout of around 85 to 90 percent occupancy at the company’s casinos, with many people driving in from surrounding states. The turnout was around 15 to 20 percent higher than a typical pre-pandemic weekend, he said. While some people were hesitant or seemed uncomfortable when walking in, Arceneaux said they became more comfortable as they settled in.
The rules in Deadwood mandate six-feet distances for social distancing, and although masks are not required, dealers have to wear them as the games can’t be played six feet apart. Only two chairs are available at tables, and two slot machines per row are shut down to maintain more social distance.
Other casinos are watching what’s happening in Deadwood for reference on how to operate their own businesses. Jay Snowden, CEO of Penn National Gaming, said he was looking at the demand from tribal casinos before making any hasty decisions.
Montana-based Golden Entertainment opened its casinos for play on May 4, which yielded a turnout that owners said was close to pre-pandemic levels.
And in Nevada, where casinos remain closed, betting and gaming company William Hill US got a permit to do a special drive-through event where customers could deposit money or place bets. This was timed in conjunction with the Jacksonville, Florida Ultimate Fighting Championship matches — the first sporting events since the shutdown started in March.
Despite the success in Deadwood, though, many people took the quarantine days to look toward online gaming for a fix instead.