At least five casinos on Main Street in Deadwood are at risk of closing. Nothing is for sure yet, but if something isn't done come July 1st when machine license fees are due, it's possible that the once vibrant street may seem, well ... dead.
"The larger properties that are not on Main are operating with a lower tax rate for property taxes and free parking on their properties," Hickok's Casino and Hotel's General Manager Terry Houk said. He says those two factors make it tough for smaller casinos to compete. "The lodge does a very good job, they're very good at business operations but they have hurt the business of downtown dramatically," Houk continued.
Deadwood Mayor Elect Chuck Turbiville doesn't deny that main street is struggling, and he says he's looking for ways to help the heart of Deadwood prosper. "Maybe make some ordinance changes that would allow more events, more benches in front of retail stores," Turbiville said. If smaller casinos can't make it downtown, Turbiville says the city may look to outside retailers to fill the space.
Houk has his own ideas about how to help casino owners downtown. Besides adjusting the property tax rate, which he says is too high, he wants the City to allow people to park on Main Street.
"If you're an elderly person, you don't want to park, walk through snow three blocks and pay to park," Houk said. Turbiville says Main Street is too narrow to allow parking. Still, Turbiville says he is open to suggestions. Houk says he is just one of many who works on Main Street and is ready to see changes. "It's not an easy job but downtown can survive," Houk added.
Turbiville did say he is hopeful that the Gold Dust will open in July, adding that bankers are working with potential buyers.
Turbiville will take office May 6.