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Public Weighs In On State/Tribal Gaming Compact

October 24, 2012, 5:00 PM by Erich Schaffhauser

Public Weighs In On State/Tribal Gaming Compact

The Lake Traverse Reservation in northeast South Dakota could have a lot more slot machines in the near future.

The state and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate are working on a gaming compact that would triple the tribe's limit from 250 to 750. Getting more slot machines on their reservation is something the tribe says will help create a destination that'll draw crowds to northeast South Dakota.

"It’ll be more like Deadwood where we're asking people to come visit us, stay with us and we will conduct the gaming in a safe and responsible and welcoming manner," attorney Greg Paulson said.

Paulson is representing the tribe. And if the plan is approved, the tribe would be allowed 750 slot machines as soon as it passes. It could add another 100 machines by 2022.

The state held a public hearing regarding the compact Wednesday in Sisseton. People at the meeting did not raise concern about the number of slot machines. But they questioned where some money would go.

The agreement requires the tribe to pay Roberts and Codington counties, where casinos are located, for police, fire, ambulance and road services. Those are services the state and tribe agree could be used more if the casinos expand.

Codington County would receive 75 percent of the money; Roberts County would receive 25 percent.

"I just feel that Roberts County is entitled to more of that money than they're receiving now. And I believe they should receive a larger percentage of it than Codington County," Leroy Hellwig said.

Hellwig argues that more tribal members live in Roberts County so that's where the money should go.

But the state and tribe say the percentage is specifically tied to the gaming facilities. And there's a much larger casino near Watertown than there is near Sisseton so that's where more services would be required.

During the Wednesday hearing an official from Roberts County said it could use more of the money because it can't collect local taxes on a lot of the tribal land within its borders. The tribe says that would be a separate issue the two entities would have to work out, and it wouldn't be connected with the gaming agreement.

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