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OUR VIEW: Deadwood alcohol law sounds good if reasons are legit

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Deadwood hotels want the option to serve alcohol around the clock, and a proposal in the state Legislature may do just that.

Earlier this week, a legislative committee gave its OK to a plan that would allow hotels to sell booze and allow on-site consumption 24 hours a day. There are some associated rules, including one that would limit the privilege to establishments with 10 lodging rooms or more.

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The idea is to help Deadwood stay competitive as a visitor destination, and to allow casino employees a chance to relax and have a drink after their work shift ends.

The change would not apply to any other city in the state, and also would not apply to American Indian-run casinos.

We understand that Deadwood needs to stay competitive, since so many gambling options have developed since the state first OK'd gambling in Deadwood in 1989.

Back then, Deadwood needed a boost, and gambling was the answer. It instantly revived the northern hills, and it helped the town maintain itself a decade later when gold-mining played out and the great Homestake Mine closed down.

In the years since, tribal gambling has boomed nationwide, as has the video lottery industry in our state and in others. What will Deadwood do if it begins to lose out to these competitors? After all, if the casinos go dark, there's not much that can be done with the town's revamped Main Street. No hardware store is going to fill the vacancy left by a gaudy casino, for instance.

How is Deadwood doing? According to news reports, not too bad.

The Rapid City Journal reported that 2012 was the best year on record for Deadwood gambling revenues, and that 2013 started comparably well. Things slowed, however, as 2013 came to a close, thanks in part to the nasty blizzard that socked the western part of the state in October.

We aren't interested in expanding gambling itself, since we feel plenty of options already exist in the state. But we do understand that Deadwood needs to maintain a competitive edge, since the entire town is so invested in the gambling industry. If this new law is truly needed to keep that edge, so be it.

We do not, however, feel that accommodating late-night workers in Deadwood is a good reason to pass the law. They don't deserve a drink after their shift any more than do factory workers here in Mitchell. Bar hours statewide are currently 7 a.m. through 2 a.m.

If Deadwood needs to stay competitive, lawmakers are right to consider allowing hotel bars to remain open around the clock. But that is the only reason to consider it or adopt it. No law should be changed just so casino workers can enjoy a cocktail after work.

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