When state Revenue Deputy Secretary David Wiest went to the microphone Wednesday during a Senate committee hearing, he spoke against Senate Joint Resolution 2.
That’s the legislative proposal to have South Dakota voters decide in the November 2020 election whether to legalize sports betting in Deadwood and tribal casinos.
On Friday, Governor Kristi Noem said his comments were on the mark.
“Well, it sounds like he did a good job identifying my concerns with the legislation as it’s coming forward,” she said.
“I’m not in favor of expansion of gambling in the state of South Dakota. And I look through that lens at any legislation that puts something else on the table for discussion,” Noem continued.
She added, “Our early indications are pretty clear that opening up state sports gambling to the public could end up costing us more than the actual revenue it would bring in. And so that’s a real concern for me. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze,” she said.
As governor, Noem doesn’t have a direct voice in the matter. That’s because legislative resolutions don’t go to the governor.
But she does have her bully pulpit.
Earlier Friday, legislative leaders expressed their views.
There was full support for Deadwood and tribal casinos from the two Senate leaders, Republican Kris Langer of Dell Rapids and Democrat Troy Heinert of Mission, who’s a Rosebud Sioux tribal member.
“It was completely based on a revenue number, as far as what I was told. When I listened to his (Wiest’s) reasoning, it was more related to how much money is that going to bring in and what is going to be the cost to the state,” Langer said.
She said sports betting already has been happening in South Dakota.
“To me, if we have more regulations around that and can oversee that, I think that’s a good thing,” Langer said.
“The voters approved gaming in Deadwood (in 1988), so I don’t see it as an expansion of gambling. I see it as another option. I think if you’re on a tour bus and you want that option to bet on a sports game, I personally don’t see that as an expansion of gambling,” she continued.
“Now, if we did that statewide, I would probably change my mind on that,” Langer added.
Heinert said department officials had said they would be against it.
“I understand the opponents’ philosophy that this is an expansion of gaming. But I also think that we’re putting it to the voters. And that’s how Deadwood (gambling) got started,” Heinert said.
“If they need these games to make it more profitable in their off-season, you know, the voters of South Dakota are going to decide,” he added.
The prime sponsor of the Deadwood sports-wagering resolution is Republican Senator Bob Ewing of Spearfish. The resolution was on the Senate debate calendar Friday but was deferred to next week.
Federal law says tribal governments should be allowed to offer at least the same types of gambling that a state government allows. That’s how tribal casinos spread quickly to eight of the nine Indian reservations that share the same geography as South Dakota after Deadwood slot machines and card games were approved 30 years ago.
Several tribal governments sent representatives to testify in support of the Deadwood sports-wagering resolution.
On the other side, Matt Krogman, a lobbyist representing the South Dakota Licensed Beverage Dealer and Gaming Association, also opposed the resolution. But Krogman wanted more sports betting. He called for it to be legalized statewide.
There’s also another measure, Senate Joint Resolution 5, that would allow Yankton to have a single license for Deadwood-style gambling of slot machines, card games, roulette, craps and keno.
Senate Republican assistant leader Jim Bolin of Canton said he thinks Deadwood won’t attract enough sports gamblers to offset the regulatory costs.
“It’s not going to be too much gambling, it’s going to be too little gambling,” Bolin said. He added, “If it passes and the voters want it, its impact on the revenues of South Dakota will be negligible if it’s confined just to Deadwood.
“So that’s going to have to be a value judgment people are going to make. If you want revenue, you’re going to have to make it statewide, but that also will increase the controversy of the discussion,” Bolin said.
House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte doesn’t want sports betting at all. Qualm watched part of the Senate hearing.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know where they were going up on that, you know, which way that bill would go,” Qualm said.
He added, “I guess I look at it as it is an extension, or expanding, gambling, and I’m not in favor of it, so I would just as soon see it go away for Deadwood or anyplace. That’s where I’m at with it.”