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Fri Apr 3, 2020, 01:13 AM

Keystone, Casinos in Big Economic Trouble as Coronavirus Kills Tourism

Coronavirus won’t kill everybody, but it could put everyone in Keystone, including city government, out of business:

…the sales-tax revenues from food and drink, lodging and retail sales make up nearly three-quarters of the town’s annual $1.25 million budget, putting Keystone’s financial fortunes at the mercy of the tourism trade and almost entirely reliant on money spent by visitors.

“The town has kind of set itself up to be extremely sensitive to sales tax because we don’t have much property tax,” said Cassandra Ott, finance officer in Keystone. “Considering the town is mostly tourism-based, I would say the majority of that is from visitors.”

And this year, with fears of COVID-19 keeping tourists away so far and into the foreseeable future, the town might have to undergo some painful belt-tightening. Local businesses that are open year-round or which opened in March for the early tourism season report that sales are already down by 65% or more, and the spring-break season appears to be a complete loss [Bart Pfankuch, “Tourism Slowdown Could Devastate Keystone, S.D., Gateway to Mount Rushmore,” South Dakota News Watch, 2020.03.31].

On the other side of the state, Royal River Casino in Flandreau is closing “in the best interest of our guests and team members.”

Senator Marion Michael Rounds tells Pfankuch and fellow SD News Watcher Nick Lowrey that South Dakota’s tourism season will be “extremely difficult, if almost nearly non-existent.” Those 48,000 idle tourism workers might be good candidates for a new Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration, dispatched to the Black Hills, the Badlands, and elsewhere around the state to build roads and parks and dinosaurs for people to come see and enjoy in South Dakota when we’ve all had our new shots and can get back to touring our great state and nation.


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