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Deadwood celebrates start of sports betting

The sports betting lounge at Tin Lizzie in Deadwood
Arielle Zionts
The sports betting lounge at Tin Lizzie in Deadwood

Jack Morris has attended every gambling milestone in Deadwood. He was there when gambling was legalized in 1989 and when craps and roulette began a few years ago.

"And so now just this natural progression into sports betting, I had to be here at 10 o'clock when they allowed you to make the first legal sports bet," the Deadwood resident said.

Jack Morris displays his sports betting tickets.

Deadwood celebrated the first day of sport betting Thursday at the Tin Lizzie Casino.

The betting area is in a chic lounge with one side open to Historic Main Street. There's a row of TVs airing sports games and displaying betting odds.

Betters can relax in royal blue lounge chairs or at gold high-top tables. They can also try their hand at several traditional gambling games.

The first sports bets were placed by the Deadwood mayor and by Bob Ewing, a county commissioner and former state senator.

Arielle Zionts
Deadwood Mayor David Ruth (left) and Lawrence County Commissioner Bob Ewing place the first sports bets.

Ewing celebrated the opening day of the NFL season by betting $100 that the Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl.

"I feel pretty confident on that. It sounds like they've got a good team this year," he said.

Fifty-eight percent of South Dakota voters approved sports betting during the 2020 election. Betting is only allowed at licensed facilities in Deadwood. People can place their bets with tellers at a window, at a digital kiosk, or soon, through an app on their phone. The app will only work within the facilities.

Other states, including Wyoming, allow people to bet anywhere with their phone. But South Dakota wanted to offer sports betters the Deadwood experience.

"We wanted to bring additional patrons to Deadwood and have them experience all that Deadwood has to offer," said Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association.
Rodman said sports wagering should benefit the Deadwood economy by expanding the gambling demographic and season. He said sports betters tend be younger than the typical gambler.

"Hopefully it will bring people at a time of the year to Deadwood that has typically been slower," Rodman said. "The Super Bowl, March Madness, those times of year. It will give Deadwood opportunities for additional marketing at times that have been traditionally slower for us."

Four casinos — Tin Lizzie, Mustang Sally’s, Gold Dust, and Cadillac Jack’s — have already obtained their sports betting licenses. They are starting with major professional and college sports, but will expand to overseas sports and less common ones like ping pong and rugby.

The casinos have partnered with sports wagering platforms to offer secure betting technology. So far they are using BetMGM and ISI Sports.

Arielle Zionts, rural health care correspondent, is based in South Dakota. She primarily covers South Dakota and its neighboring states and tribal nations. Arielle previously worked at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, where she reported on business and economic development.
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