DEADWOOD, S.D. — If Nick Sharkey really does want to take a crack at Deadwood’s new $1,000 bet limit, he will likely be going to one of the town’s bigger casinos.
“I’m going to come with seven grand and bet all seven spots” at a blackjack table, the Gillette man said this week while trying his luck at the Silverado. “I’ve never been to Vegas, so I’ve never bet over $100.”
Deadwood’s bet limit is $100, but legislation approved by South Dakota lawmakers in February raises the ante to $1,000 beginning July 1.
As a result, casinos will be able choose whether they want to adopt the higher bet limit although the smaller operations said it will be difficult for them to do so.
“Some of the smaller casinos, definitely myself, we’re still a mom-and-pop place,” Louie Lalonde, the owner and general manger of Saloon No. 10, said. “We’re definitely not going to be able to bankroll that money in our cage,” she said. “It’s just something we’re not able to do, as well as afford the security updates.”
However, Lalonde said she supports the higher bet limits even if it doesn’t directly benefit her establishment.
“The perception that there is something like that in Deadwood is important in order to attract a new level of player,” she said.
Deadwood Gaming Association President Tom Nelson expects fewer than 10 casinos will adopt the higher limit initially, although he predicts that that number will grow as time passes.
The South Dakota Commission on Gaming recently released its draft rules to usher in the new bet limits. The commission still needs to approve the draft rules before the Legislature’s interim rules committee gives the final approval.
In the meantime, casino managers are waiting for the rules to be finalized before they implement significant changes, according to Mineral Palace general manager Barry Lloyd, who said he plans to adopt the $1,000 bet limit.
“We have to wait for the gaming commission for a lot of stuff. If they require someone watching the tables full time, we’ll do that,” he said.
The Silverado is another casino that is expected to adopt the higher limit.
Smaller casinos will likely not offer a higher bet limit because of the cost of complying with rules and the need to have more cash on hand for higher payouts.
Extra security is the primary focus of the new rules.
While all casinos have security systems, the new rules call for fixed cameras at blackjack and house-banked poker games with betting limits higher than $100. Those cameras must record with enough clarity to identify players, dealers, spectators and pit personnel.
In addition, the proposed rules call for casinos to keep surveillance images longer — 14 days instead of seven.
Under current rules, casinos must review a minimum of five minutes of footage each week from each camera. The new rules say casinos must review all recorded surveillance images each week, in addition to inspecting recording equipment daily. Those rules don’t single out any casinos, such as those with higher bet limits.
The draft rules also call for an extra person to help with security at the tables — the pit boss. Casinos will have to put a pit boss near tables that have a bet limit over $100. A pit boss — defined for the first time in the draft rules — supervises other casino workers, watches table games and arbitrates customer disputes, among other responsibilities.
Some of the larger casinos, such as the Silverado, already have a pit boss.
The higher bet limit rules change the color of the chips, too. The highest allowable chip denomination had been the purple $500 chips, but the new rules call for yellow $1,000 chips and gray $5,000 chips.
The draft rules also call for an increase in the amount of cash a casino must keep on hand, according to Larry Eliason, the executive secretary of the gaming commission.
Lalonde said she worries the gaming commission’s new security requirements will hit casinos hard in their pocketbooks.
“It would be detrimental to some of us because we are just now climbing out of some pretty flat gaming times, and we all need to be able to sit back, take a deep breath and build up some cash flow and get out of debt,” she said.
Eliason said casinos that don’t adopt the higher bet limit should not be affected much by the new rules.
Deadwood Police Chief Kelly Fuller said he isn’t worried about crime increasing in Deadwood with more money in the pockets of gamblers, since the gaming commission handles gambling-related crimes. His department focuses on issues like underage drinking and false identification.
“Obviously, I think the potential certainly exists, to what point is hard to say. We implement certain strategies, crime prevention, foot patrols downtown,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any model or any data to analyze what kind of impact it will be.”
While Sharkey of Gillette is looking forward to being more of a high roller, other gamblers interviewed this week in Deadwood seemed less enthused.
“It doesn’t make any difference to any of us as long as we can bet our $2 or $3,” said Paul Fauss of Rapid City, who was playing blackjack. “How many people around here are going to bet $1,000? How many people bet $100?”
His gambling partner, Gene Hoffman of Rapid City, thought the effort to bring business was good but worried about people spending too much on gambling.
“They’re hoping to bring more money into Deadwood, and if it does that, it’s a good thing. But if it takes money out of everybody’s pockets, that isn’t a good thing,” Hoffman said.
Sharkey, on the other hand, had a completely different perspective.
“I’m excited big time,” he said.
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