Sunday May 19,2013 : GOOD PROSPECTS FOR FREE-PLAY ONLINE GAMBLING IN DEADWOOD
When the snow is 7 feet deep in South Dakota, you don't want to be driving to a casino…
The forward-looking Deadwood Mountain Grand land casino in South Dakota is putting together a free-to-play online gambling network to maintain a business presence in the harsh winter months, and serve as a foundation if legalised USA online casino gambling ever comes to the North Western state.
Getting in on the ground floor this week was a rep from Williams Interactive, the online division of gambling supply and content group WMS, who held discussions with Deadwood Mountain Grand Casino general manager Brad Hemmah on the benefits of getting into the $1 billion internet social gaming sector.
"I want to do this," Hemmah told local media this week. "My vision was always to have a virtual casino. When you can get 7 feet of snow in 36 hours, weather events that have happened here before, you can lose entire weekends in Deadwood. People can’t get here and when you make 80 percent of your revenue for the week on the weekends, that’s a problem."
“I say the gaming public is ready for it because they can still have this entertaining activity they’re used to and enjoy without worrying about icy roads and not being able to drive to Deadwood,” Hemmah added.
Whilst social gaming will enable the land casino to keep in touch with its existing and prospective clientele, and provide at-home or mobile entertainment to South Dakota punters, Hemmah also has his eye on the main prize – legalised real money online gambling if and when it arrives in South Dakota.
Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey have already legalised online gambling in various forms, and at least ten other states are considering the possibilities, and for Hemmah the ideal situation would be for him to be in a position to offer wagered internet gaming to his customers.
At present the Deadwood Mountain Grand website is a gateway to IGT’s online social gaming offering Double Down Casino, but Williams Interactive is pitching for the opportunity to provide its "play-for-fun" games on a network basis.
Casinos sign up, pay a monthly fee and split revenues from social gamblers' credit purchases for the various games on both mobile and online platforms, which are offered through the casino’s website.
Tom Nelson, president of the Deadwood Gaming Association, said that gambling technology and the industry itself has changed dramatically over the past two decades.
“Back then it was pretty much just three-reel slot machines and card games," he said, noting that technological advances in both land and online gambling have been "mind-boggling" and new games have been developed.
However, he has doubts that online gambling will be legalised in South Dakota anytime soon
“I think it is doubtful that anytime in the near future South Dakota will legalize any sort of online or Internet poker games," he said. "However, when and if that happens, I'm sure there will be some Deadwood operators that will try to take advantage of the new laws.”
Weston Pleinis, the casino general manager at The Lodge at Deadwood, said he believes legalised online gaming will eventually be a possibility in South Dakota.
“We have already had meetings with suppliers about this,” Pleinis said, although he expressed doubts about the potential size of the South Dakota online slots market.
“I think people like to play online slots for fun, but I don't think our market for real money online slots will be huge,” Pleinis said. “I think there is a large market for online poker and other games of that nature. That’s where there is money to be made. That will definitely affect our live play.”
Instead of competing with online gaming, Pleinis said that Lodge officials will embrace it. “I know we will follow the trend,” he said.