Tribal gambling and tourism in South Dakota

Rapid City Journal
Tribal gambling and tourism in South Dakota
Wild Casino

It’s great to escape the main tourist trail once in a while and that is as true within the US as it is when venturing further afield. According to data from YouGov, more than 50 percent of Americans have visited the likes of California, Texas, Florida and New York. Yet only 20 percent have ever been to South Dakota. We’d argue that this means four out of five don’t know what they are missing. Let’s lift the lid on some of the best attractions in the Coyote State.

The Black Hills and Mount Rushmore

Let’s start with the obvious — South Dakota’s most famous attraction, Mount Rushmore. Ignore the naysayers, this is a landmark everyone should visit at least once. A word to the wise is to schedule your visit around sunset. A video is shown each day that gives some information about each of the four Presidents memorialized, and then there is a short ceremony before the faces are dramatically illuminated.

Sioux culture at Black Hills

The name Dakota comes from Lakota and Dakota Sioux tribes and nine percent of the state’s population is Native American. There are nine tribal governments within the state, and for years they suffered repression and under representation, so try to ensure your visit brings some positive outcomes for indigenous businesses. A great way to do so is with a visit to the Black Hills area, where there is an abundance of locally owned tour operations that will guide you around one or more reservations to show you a great variety of indigenous culture and art.

If you’re as crazy about dinosaurs (and dinosaur movies) as we are, there is one place that definitely needs to find its way onto your schedule. Called simply Mammoth Site, this excavation in Hot Springs is a treasure trove of mammoth bones. In fact, this active dig site contains the largest collection of them in the world.

Try your luck at a tribal casino

If you enjoy playing slots and other games of chance, there are eleven American Indian casinos in South Dakota. They are owned and operated by seven South Dakota Native American tribes, and all of them guarantee a great night out and a way to contribute to the Native American economy. These days, most of us have tried a little online gambling at one of the scores of US online casinos. Those are great fun, but there is nothing quite like a real tribal casino! The largest is the Sioux-owned Royal River casino in Flandreau, which boasts 400 slot machines, a dozen gaming tables and a choice of two fabulous restaurants.

Finally, a must for nature lovers, Custer State Park is famous for its bird life and its herds of bison. It also has some amazing scenic drives, so even if you don’t have time for a full day here, set aside an hour or two for a brief diversion by car and don’t miss the famous Needles Highway.