South Dakota Casinos Await Voter Approval

South Dakota casinos are rooting for a referendum that could lead to legal sports betting. Governor Kristi Noem (l.) has not openly opposed the plan, which supporters see as a source of much-needed revenues.

Casinos in Deadwood, South Dakota and eight tribal casinos in the state have moved a step closer to legal sports betting. The House voted March 3 to put the question on the ballot come November. The Senate approved the measure in February. The proposal would amend the South Dakota constitution to eliminate a ban against sports betting.

A similar effort failed in the House last year. But this time around, Governor Kristi Noem did not openly oppose the resolution, according to KELO.

If voters pass the measure, the legislature would decide how sports wagering would be managed. “It’s already happening. This is an opportunity to regulate it,” said Rep. Timothy Johns, a Lead Republican and sponsor of the resolution.

Rep. David Johnson, a Rapid City Republican, said Deadwood casinos’ taxes and fees benefit not just the town’s historic preservation efforts but Lawrence County’s treasury and state government’s general fund.

Rep. Tom Pischke, a Dell Rapids Republican, said as it stands now, Sioux Falls is a short 13-mile jaunt to a Grand Falls casino, across the border in Iowa, where sports betting is legal. Pischke suggested legislators could give a raise to Medicaid services providers, K-12 teachers and state employees, groups who won’t get more funding due to insufficient tax revenues coming in.

Rep. Bob Mills, a Republican from Volga, acknowledged that sports wagering probably wouldn’t become South Dakota’s most-addictive type of gambling. But it was one more opportunity for people to hurt themselves and their families and friends.

“Will we have video lottery machines in our lobby? Where are we going to say enough is enough? Haven’t we seen the destruction gambling does? In my opinion, we’re in the water up to our chin, and a couple more steps, we’re going to drown.”