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Deadwood's Gold Dust casino closes at least temporarily

DEADWOOD (AP) -- After New Year's Eve festivities Monday night, the Gold Dust casino closed down -- at least temporarily -- leaving 52 people unemployed and uncertain about what comes next.

A lawyer for the Dunham Co. of Sioux Falls, which owns the Gold Dust, said the casino is closed for renovations, although he said it isn't known yet what that will entail.

"We plan to reopen in the near future. We can't give you a time or date," Dunham lawyer John Archer told the media. "We're just exploring different things."

Archer said he does not know whether former employees will be rehired after the renovation. Gold Dust employees said they were told last week that their last shifts would be on New Year's Eve. They said they received no information about the casino's future or the future of their jobs.

Craig Ordahl, a maintenance employee, said he received the news after he had been released from the hospital for treatment of pancreatitis.

"I'm going to have to hit the pavement again and hope for the best," said Ordahl, who had worked at the Gold Dust since October 2011.

Chuck Turbiville, director of the Deadwood Economic Development Corp., said he has been working with state agencies and other Deadwood casinos to help Gold Dust employees find jobs quickly.

"This is the worst time to be unemployed if you're a casino worker," Turbiville said. "Traditionally, there are very few, if any, job openings this time of year."

The Gold Dust has operated in the historic Black Hills town since gambling was legalized in 1989. It has changed hands several times in the past six years. It was sold in 2009 in a complex agreement involving separate real estate and casino operation contracts. That agreement included the Dunham Co., a firm that deals with construction, real estate brokerage and property management.

Tom Nelson, president of the Deadwood Gaming Association, said Deadwood gambling is doing well overall.

"I think the health of the industry is still good," Nelson said. "We've had five months of upticks in gaming revenues."

The bet limit in Deadwood was raised from $100 to $1,000 in July. Since then, casinos have experienced relatively large gains. According to statistics from the South Dakota Gaming Commission, 10 of the first 11 months of 2012 had higher revenue than the same months a year earlier.

Through November, gross revenues were up in Deadwood by nearly 7 percent, or about $6 million, but those gains are not the same for all casinos, Nelson said.

"There have been some real struggles for the smaller properties," Nelson said.