Deadwood officials leading effort to legalize sports betting in South Dakota

 Photo courtesy of South Dakota News Watch
Photo courtesy of South Dakota News Watch (KSFY)
Published: Dec. 6, 2018 at 2:54 PM CST
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Next month, the South Dakota Legislature will be asked to pave the way for legalized sports betting in the state.

Proponents pushing a constitutional amendment to allow the gaming in Deadwood casinos want lawmakers to place the question on the 2020 ballot.

Several states now offer sports betting and others are considering it following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May. The decision struck down a federal law which banned such betting outside of Nevada. The ruling allows individual states to determine if sports betting will be allowed.

Gaming industry professionals, sports bar owners, even those charged with overseeing South Dakota’s current legalized wagering, acknowledge that illegal sports betting is already occurring in the state. Proponents of legal sports betting contend that South Dakota is missing out on potential revenues in the process.

“I was sitting at the bar at the Ramkota in Pierre and the guy next to me picked up his phone and made a bet on a football game,” said Larry Eliason, executive secretary of the South Dakota Commission on Gaming, the state agency that oversees all legal gambling activities in the state. “Of course, he didn’t know who I was.

“So, we know people in South Dakota bet on sports through bookies now,” Eliason added.

“How much they bet and how many bookies there are, we don’t know. It’s difficult to accurately gauge the extent of any activity that’s illegal.”

South Dakota has had legal gaming since 1989 and 22 casinos are operating in Deadwood. Gaming is only legal in Deadwood and at tribal casinos, though the video lottery is legal across the state.

The proposed amendment would expand the definition of gaming allowed in Deadwood casinos. If approved, the constitutional change also would allow sports betting in tribal casinos.

As proposed, the measure also would return a bigger share of gambling tax revenue to the city of Deadwood. The city has received $6.8 million in revenue each year since gambling was legalized in the state in 1989. The proposed amendment would allow the Deadwood allocation to grow with inflation.

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