In South Dakota, legalized sports betting requires a constitutional amendment and so far there hasn’t been much done to begin the steps needed. Now, however, the Deadwood Gaming Association (DGA) is planning to push to get sports betting on the 2020 South Dakota ballot.
Deadwood is famous for being the city in which Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed in 1876 while playing poker in a saloon; however, gambling wasn’t legalized in Deadwood until 1989. This move put Deadwood on the map for tourism worth $444 million in 2017.
Back in May of this year, the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban on sports betting that has been in place since 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This left legalizing sports betting up to each individual state. So far several states have operational sportsbooks and online sports betting but South Dakota, to date, has not taken any steps to do so.
After PASPA was overturned, casino owners were eager to be able to offer sports betting, both on-site and online. In a statement in May, Attorney General Marty Jackley said that the decision to legalize sports gambling is up to the voters:
“Because it’s in our constitution right now that sports betting is not allowed. That constitutional amendment would go through a fairly lengthy process, including that vote by South Dakota citizens.”
State officials say that the earliest this issue could hit the ballot through either petition process or via the State Legislature is 2020. If voters say “yes” to sports betting, lawmakers would still have to decide how to regulate the activity. If the measure is approved, sports betting could be legal in South Dakota by July 2021.
Once the state approves, tribal casinos would also be allowed to offer sports betting, although the tribal casinos would have to amend their compacts with South Dakota.
South Dakota currently has 26 commercial casinos. In 2017, they brought in $105.4 million, which generated $15.5 million in tax revenue for state coffers. There are 11 tribal casinos in South Dakota, owned and operated by seven different federally recognized tribes in the state.
The DGA has recently submitted a ballot measure to AG Jackley and the legislative research council for review. The measure would legalize sports gambling in Deadwood as well as at tribal casinos. Deadwood Gaming Association said they would require gamblers to be physically present at a casino in order to be able to place bets on any sporting events.
According to DGA Executive Director Mike Rodman, there’s a lot of support for legalized wagering:
“We’ve gotten a lot of support across South Dakota. Sports betting of course already happens in South Dakota right now, it’s just illegal and those citizens who want to be on sporting events want to do it in a safe, regulated and legal manner and we want to give them that opportunity.”
There are two options for this process to legalize sports betting in SD: the Legislature could decide to place a constitutional change to voters for them to decide or supporters of the amendment could collect signatures to put it on the ballot. Four years ago, 57 percent of South Dakota voters approved an amendment that allowed legislators to legalize craps, roulette, and keno in Deadwood.
Lee Qualm, House Majority Leader for South Dakota, says that he is against the plan to debate the issue during the 2019 session but the Republican caucus hasn’t talked about it yet. The Attorney General of SD has 45 days to either deny or approve the ballot measure.
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