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SD House rejects boost in video lottery bet limit

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news Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

By Chet Brokaw

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PIERRE (AP) — The South Dakota House on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have increased the bet limit in video lottery games.

A bill that would have raised the bet limit from $2 to $5 failed on a vote of 28-40 after opponents said larger bets would create more social problems as gambling addicts lost additional money in the machines.

Supporters argued that a higher bet limit was needed to increase state revenue from the video machines, which can offer draw poker, keno, blackjack and line-up games similar to slot machines. The state splits income from players' losses with the approximately 1,400 private establishments that offer the games.

The state's share of revenue was $93 million last year, down about $20 million since it hit a peak in 2008.

An increase in the bet limit would help the video lottery to compete with other gambling offered in the region, said Rep. Dick Werner, R-Huron, the bill's main sponsor. Extra video lottery revenue would allow the state to spend more on education and health care, he said.

But Rep. Scott Craig, R-Rapid City, said studies have indicated that about half the state's share of video lottery income comes from problem gamblers. Those gambling losses lead to crimes, including embezzlement, and other social problems such as domestic abuse, he said.

Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, said he also believes the video lottery causes social problems and particularly hurts low-income people.

"It's an unhealthy revenue source," Hickey said.

Werner countered that South Dakotans support the video lottery, with 67 percent of voters statewide voting to keep the video lottery in 2006. The bill had nothing to do with getting rid of video lottery, but instead sought to make it better, he said.

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