Gunslingers dressed as Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane fired into the air at high noon on Main Street Wednesday, signaling the start of legal gambling in the Old West town where Hickok was killed in a card game.

The start of limited poker, blackjack and slot-machine games marked a return to Deadwood's past a century after gold miners rushed to the Black Hills town hoping to strike it rich.As soon as the word was given, Evelyn Klocko of Central City stuck six quarters in a slot machine, pulled the handle and won $30. "It doesn't take any brains to pull the handle," she said as she counted her winnings.

The Franklin Hotel lobby was jammed with people, many of whom staked out chairs to grab when the gambling began. In the hour before the games began, people crowded around the poker and blackjack tables, some asking dealers how to play.

Deadwood got 8 inches of snow overnight, so most of the opening ceremony was moved indoors. The noon temperature was just above freezing, but the sun shone and Main Street was crowded with the curious and people itching to gamble.

Thirty-four businesses are offering gambling at first, many of them saloons. None call themselves casinos, however, because that's forbidden by law.

The state Gaming Commission on Tuesday approved 120 licenses for gambling parlor employees, including dealers and cashiers. About 90 dealers had been licensed earlier, and officials were unsure how many of the new licensees were dealers.

Officials said about 200 dealers were needed. Even with the new dealers approved Tuesday, Bill Fisher, floor manager in the Bella Union Gaming Saloon, said: "We are going to be short dealers, I'm sure."

Gambling organizers say Deadwood gambling won't rival Las Vegas or Atlantic City's high-stakes games, but maximum $5 poker bets still could lead to winnings - or losses - of several hundred dollars a game.

Deadwood Dick's Bar, owned by Mary Dunne, didn't even have its sign up Tuesday but promised to have slot machines and blackjack ready for today.

Frantic, last-minute construction continued.

"It isn't safe to go in a bar anymore because someone hands you a hammer and asks if you want a job," she said over the din of hammers and saws.

In 1988, gambling supporters persuaded statewide voters to allow the limited-stakes games for Deadwood.

It's hard to predict how much money the games will bring into government coffers, said Don Gromer, the Gaming Commission's executive secretary. He thinks Deadwood will get $400,000 the first year, the state will get $500,000, and Lawrence County will receive $100,000.

The city's cut of gambling proceeds is to be used for historic preservation.

Deadwood's colorful past includes gambling, prostitution and shootouts. Wild Bill was shot in the back while holding aces and eights in Deadwood's Saloon No. 10 in 1876.

Police Chief Les Bradley hopes those days won't re

turn. He just added an officer to the force, bringing the total to six for the community of 2,000.

"I'm not looking for any major crime," Bradley said. "But it's possible I might eat my words."

Opposition to gambling in Deadwood has been slight, and efforts have started in at least two other South Dakota towns to offer limited gambling.

The Gaming Commission on Tuesday approved 24-hour gambling for four businesses that are combination bars and restaurants.

Gromer said bars must close at 2 a.m., so gambling must stop in the bars then. But it can continue in restaurants. No liquor can be served during the hours that bars are closed.

Despair engendered by a decline in tourism in recent years has given way to excitement and investment, said Bill Walsh, owner of the 85-year-old Franklin Hotel.

"Deadwood's going to be fun again. That I believe with all my heart," Walsh said. "We're returning to the good old times of Deadwood, and if we do that, we're going to be successful."