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Deadwood plans to give less money to other South Dakota communities

PIERRE — The Deadwood Historic Preservation Office will provide $100,000 in grants to other South Dakota causes next year.

That's down from $150,000 that was distributed this year and from $250,000 in 2017. The money comes from the city's share of taxes and fees on Deadwood gambling.

South Dakota voters agreed in 1988 to make the Lawrence County city the only place, outside of tribal reservations, where slot machines and limited card games were legal. Voters added craps, keno and roulette in 2014.

The South Dakota State Historical Society trustees have shared authority over the Deadwood historic preservation and restoration fund. On Friday, trustees approved the city's historic preservation budget of $6,897,518.58 for calendar 2019. That includes $100,000 for grants to other communities and projects outside Deadwood.

Kevin Kuchenbecker, the city's historic preservation officer, told trustees that gambling has slowed to the pace of 10 years ago.

"Our gaming revenues are flat or decreasing. Our expenses are increasing," Kuchenbecker said. "Yet we're seeing healthy visitation, which is very positive."

He cited statistics: 3,644 gambling devices in 2008; 3,176 in 2017; and less than 3,000 currently. There were 136 gambling establishments in 2008 and 123 in 2017. Gambling traffic also has shifted somewhat, to newer establishments that aren't downtown, he said.

"That's very concerning," responded David Wolff, a trustee from Spearfish.

Chairman Brad Tennant of Aberdeen raised again the question about how Deadwood reflects American Indian culture.

Kuchenbecker gave a few examples, then said: "Could we do more? Probably." Replied Tennant, "Asking for a friend."

Trustee Jeffery Hazard of Sioux Falls said about $1.4 million of the $6.9 million goes to the city budget. Hazard said he'd like to see how much flows into each department.