The Rise of Sports Betting in South Dakota

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The busts of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln tower over the Black Hills at Mount Rushmore National Monument in Keystone, South Dakota. Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

Call it what you want, but Deadwood is alive again! The introduction of glamorous gambling spaces, adorned with large televisions broadcasting a variety of sports events, has infused Deadwood with a surge of vitality, attracting a fresh customer base and generating increased revenue.

More than two years since receiving the stamp of approval from the voters, South Dakota sports betting has evolved into a lucrative venture for Deadwood casinos, bringing in millions of dollars and revolutionizing the local gaming industry.

As the popularity of sports betting continues to surge, the prospect of online sportsbooks in South Dakota looms on the horizon, promising further expansion and innovation in the state’s gambling landscape.

Deadwood Comes Alive With Sports Betting

In a landmark achievement, Deadwood’s sportsbooks recorded their first-ever monthly ‘handle’ exceeding $1 million in October 2023. But the story doesn’t end there.

​​Gamblers in Deadwood wagered $2.7 million on sports in 2021, $7.2 million in 2022, and $9 million in 2023, marking a 26% increase from the previous year, as reported by the South Dakota Department of Revenue.

The success of sports betting in Deadwood notwithstanding, slots are still king.  Slot machine revenue totaled $1.45 billion in 2023, and table games drew bets of almost $90 million in the last year.

The Deadwood Gaming Association reports that Deadwood casinos have generated nearly $17 million in gaming tax revenue. These funds have been allocated towards historic preservation, tourism promotion, support for Lawrence County, its municipalities, schools, the State of South Dakota’s general fund, and other government entities.

Sports Betting Attracts New Clientele to Casino

Sports betting has drawn more men to Deadwood casinos, balancing the gender breakdown that previously leaned slightly more toward females. The patrons of sports books are generally younger compared to the overall casino population.

In addition to drawing a new demographic of gamblers, sports betting has also stimulated activity in casinos during traditionally slow periods.

Deadwood’s busiest gaming season usually aligns with the larger Black Hills tourism market, typically from May to September. However, the popularity of betting on college and NFL football games has brought a wave of new visitors to Deadwood. This wave starts with the football season in September, continues through the college football playoffs in January, and lasts until the Super Bowl in early February. 

The March Madness men’s college basketball tournament is also expected to attract a large number of visitors to the sports books during a time when Deadwood’s gaming activity usually slows down. Summer remains the peak season, but sports betting is certainly bringing guests to Deadwood during times that are typically off-peak.

What’s Next for Bettors in Deadwood?

Sports betting has generated more than $20 million in bets since it launched in South Dakota in September of 2021. The sportsbook count has also escalated from two to seven and there has been a steady increase in the total wagered amount and the casino revenues from sports betting.

The next move to be made in South Dakota would be to add online sports betting. You must bet in person on the premises of one of the casinos in Deadwood or a tribal casino to place a sports bet. No state-based online sports betting site with promotional offers has been launched yet.

Efforts to extend sports betting to kiosks in licensed bars and restaurants beyond Deadwood have been unsuccessful in two previous legislative attempts. And with the success the casinos have seen so far and the way things are going at the moment, retail sports betting will likely remain the only option for the foreseeable future.