Since November, 1989 — the year that Deadwood joined Las Vegas and Atlantic City as a cohort of then U.S. cities with legal non-reservation gaming — more than $18 billion has been wagered in the town. That activity has generated millions of dollars in tax proceeds to restore historic buildings in Deadwood, and to promote tourism statewide.
Despite the addition of keno, craps and roulette this past summer, however, Deadwood is no longer confident of its winning hand. Recently, state data showed the city's gaming revenues have plateaued, prompting some officials to suggest the town has to adapt to a more competitive landscape.
"Gaming is now ubiquitous nationwide, and Deadwood can't just rely on gambling or its Western culture anymore," South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard told CNBC in a recent interview. "They need something else to bring in tourists for the first time and to bring them back."
On that score, Deadwood's Revitalization Committee recently commissioned a 96-page action plan that contains recommendations on how the town can capitalize on its history and place in popular culture.
Deadwood's popularity is at least partly attributed to HBO's three-season-long "Deadwood" TV series (which was canceled in 2006 but is still popular online) and attractions such as Kevin Costner's memorabilia-filled Midnight Star casino and restaurant on Main Street.
"The town has so many things going for it beyond gaming," said Roger Brooks, whose tourism consulting firm put together the revitalization report. "Plus, with a name like Deadwood, it doesn't get much better when it comes to being able to stand out."
Brooks would like Deadwood's Wild West-themed streets to be more authentic and pedestrian friendly. He's also urged the town to create a central plaza where regular entertainment and activities can take place. Meanwhile, the town's business community is grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns and rallying around those recommendations.
"We developed 55 action items from the report, and have been busily working on making them happen," said Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association and a member of the Revitalization Committee.
Currently, the town is building a new welcome center, and in town more technology-friendly parking meters now accept credit cards and cell-phone payments.
"We also cleaned up our signage, put up baskets of flowers on the street lights and wrapped some electrical boxes to make them less visible," said Rodman.
Next on the list: finishing plans for two downtown plazas and raising the $8.8 million needed to move that part of the plan forward, said Rodman.