South Dakota video lottery casinos are starting to see customers returning to the terminal following an absence going back to the start of the recession. Video lottery revenues saw their first increase in five years in 2013. The increase was slight, less than a percentage point. But casinos say even a small increase is a good start.
The recession sent South Dakota's video lottery industry into a tailspin that many casinos are just now emerging from.
"The recession hurt big-time. It wrecked a lot of places; a lot places went out of business," Stubbie's Bar & Grill owner Chico Sharpe said.
The statewide smoking ban also took a toll. And even though the economy's improving, some players are still shy about spending money at the machines.
"Probably in the last five years, I've spent $20 here. It's just something that I do now and then but very, very seldom," Larry Engelsen of Sioux Falls said.
But new games are reviving video lottery at casinos like Stubbie's Bar & Grill. Half of Stubbie's terminals now feature Las Vegas-style slot machines.
"And that's why business is slowly picking up because people are finally discovering, 'Hey. There are new games; they're fun,'" Sharpe said.
Sharpe says the Las-Vegas line games are a good start. But he thinks the state should explore other options, including higher bet limits.
"I'm saying for our neighborhood, higher limits would be awesome because there's a lot of money around here," Sharpe said.
Sharpe says higher limits could raise new security concerns because of having more cash at the casinos. But he thinks raising the limit could improve the odds of better years ahead.
"And I don't know if we're ever going to get to the hay days of video lottery, but we're getting closer and closer," Sharpe said.
Sharpe says despite the popularity of the new Las Vegas line games, customers are still drawn to the older, traditional video lottery games because of their familiarity.