Ballot measure on Deadwood sports-betting now faces a final vote in South Dakota House

Capitol News Bureau

A look at the sports book at the Grand Falls Casino in Iowa.

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota voters could see a ballot question this November whether to allow sports wagering at Deadwood — and maybe statewide.

Depending if voters approve it this fall, the Legislature could make sports wagering available next year.

And it could reach beyond Deadwood, through kiosks or technology that would link bettors in other parts of South Dakota.

A legislative measure calling for the ballot question moved ahead Monday at the Capitol in Pierre.

The House State Affairs Committee voted 7-5 to endorse the resolution from Senator Bob Ewing. The full House could vote on it as early as Tuesday afternoon.

The Spearfish Republican, whose legislative district of Lawrence County includes Deadwood, brought a similar measure last year. The 2019 measure squeezed through the Senate 18-14 but was blocked 7-3 by the same House committee that endorsed it Monday.

Governor Kristi Noem’s administration strongly opposed the 2019 version. This year the governor shifted to a neutral position.

No one opposed Ewing’s measure Monday. The Senate recommended it 24-10 February 11.

Ewing said 14 states already have sports wagering, including Iowa, which has the Grand Falls Casino just over the border from Sioux Falls, and it will become available later this year in Montana and Colorado. He said 12 other states have legislation under way.

“And it’s currently happening in South Dakota, and it’s happening illegally. So we’d like to see this taken care of by making it legal in our state as well. The people of South Dakota should have the opportunity to decide if they want legal sports wagering,” Ewing told the committee.

Deadwood dedicates $6.8 million per year from casino taxes and fees to the city’s historic preservation projects. Another $100,000 per year in grants are made throughout South Dakota by the State Historical Society.

“I mean everything from churches to civic organization projects. They’re very generous with these funds,” Ewing said.

Supporting testimony came from Roger Tellinghuisen, representing the Deadwood Gaming Association, and Lorin Pankratz, speaking for the Deadwood-Lead Economic Development Corporation.

Tellinghuisen said Congress passed a law in 1992 that banned sports wagering nationwide except for a few jurisdictions. In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal law, he said.

Tellinghuisen was state attorney general in 1988 when voters changed the South Dakota Constitution to allow Deadwood to offer slot machines and card games.

Representative Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, said allowing sports betting wouldn’t be in the best interest of South Dakota because some people would become addicted to it. He voted against the resolution.

“This would certainly bring in a new clientele, probably, people that are already interested in sports, and they might not be interested in playing these other games that are authorized in Deadwood, but they might see sports as being altogether different, because we’re really a society consumed by sports,” Haugaard said.

Voters amended the South Dakota Constitution in 1986 to allow a state lottery. The South Dakota Lottery now is the second-largest generator of revenue for state government’s general fund, behind only the state sales tax.

Video lottery, scratch-off tickets and lotto produced $123.8 million for the general fund in the budget year that ended June 30. By comparison, Deadwood casinos generated about $9.6 million in taxes for the city of Deadwood, Lawrence County, other municipalities in Lawrence County, state government and four school districts with lands in Lawrence County.

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