Gaming is the economic engine that drives modern-day Deadwood. History is the soul of the machine. Given the multiple opportunities to gamble in the upper Midwest, many of them much more convenient to large population centers, Deadwood needs to attract its audience with something other than convenient gaming.
As a result, the primary attraction of Deadwood today is history as manifested in its museums, historic houses and living history shootouts. Public and private attractions, as well as recreational opportunities including rails-to trails activities, snowmobiling, skiing, concerts and parades, all provide visitor opportunities in addition to gaming.
Deadwood population in 1990 was 1,830. The population in 2000 was 1,380. The City budget in 2003 was roughly $17 million. The Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission budget was $9.4 million. The City has 42 full-time and 45 part-time employees including a Planning and Zoning Administrator, City Building Inspector, Historic Preservation Officer, Archivist and Assistant Archivist.
There are 470 households in Deadwood. There are 2,300 jobs, 1,200 hotel rooms, and 2,915 gaming devices. Deadwood’s history and gaming attracts about 1.2 million visitors each year, making this National Historic Landmark one of the most popular destinations in the middle of America.
As a typical mountain mining town with rugged terrain, Deadwood faces severe topographic limitations on development and expansion. The portion of the valley that was developable, was developed early. There have been only four permits issued for new single family homes in the past 10 years due to the shortage of buildable lots.
Deadwood had a strong appreciation for its history and was developing a strong preservation ethic prior to gaming. With the advent of gaming Deadwood established a forceful and effective Historic Preservation Office which, with the support of the State Historic Preservation Office, established effective and usable preservation standards.
Deadwood is not a museum. It is an ever-changing, developing place where people live, work and play. Historic significance consists of more than buildings. Change, growth and development will occur, but must be respectful of everything that gives Deadwood its historic significance. History and historic preservation remain the prime ingredients in the revival and present economic growth of Deadwood.