SD Lottery Commission advances gambling study
By Nora Hertel
PIERRE (AP) — Despite setbacks during the 2014 legislative session, the South Dakota Lottery said Thursday that it will push forward with a study of problem gambling in the state to help convince lawmakers to expand lottery games.
South Dakota Lottery Executive Director Norman Lingle requested authorization for the study and reviewed the lottery's refined goals during a meeting of the South Dakota Lottery Commission. One of the goals is to increase the maximum limits on bets and rewards.
Lawmakers defeated two bills championed by the lottery this session, including one to allow more video lottery terminals in licensed establishments and another to increase the bet limit on video lottery games.
"I guess you can call us stubborn," Lingle said. "Our intentions are to push through on all of these objectives. It's going to take some lift."
Opponents said gaming expansions provoke addictions and cause social and financial problems for families in the state. During the legislative session, they frequently used their own data to argue that gambling addiction was an issue among South Dakotans.
Lingle disputes that assertion and told lawmakers in a letter during the session that he would request the study to encourage support on a pro-gambling measure.
Lingle said he wants the study to compare problem gambling among video lottery, casinos in Deadwood, tribal gaming and other gaming options. He also said the study would consider the social and financial impacts of gambling on the state.
The commission unanimously agreed to move forward with the plan, meaning Lingle can now seek third-party proposals for conducting the study. Lingle said he wants to draw together state officials and lottery opponents to help with the study.
Still, Commissioner Chuck Turbiville expressed some reservations. He said a study likely wouldn't change opponents' minds, noting that promising a study during the legislative session didn't lead to the passage of pro-gaming bills. And he estimated the study would be costly, between about $500,000 or $750,000.
"I think we're embarking on a very extensive, very expensive study," Turbiville said.
Commissioner Bob Hartford agreed with Turbiville, but added: "I think it's too late not to do this. The only thing we can do is to make this as transparent as possible."
The commissioners worried that if the study results demonstrate favorable results for gaming, opponents would try to discredit it. Several expressed confidence that the study would show gaming in a positive light.
Turbiville said the fact that the state is not using all the money put aside for gambling problems indicates the problems are well managed.
A few at the meeting agreed that the study could reassure gaming supporters.
Commissioner Jim Putnam said conducting the study is a good business decision that may change some minds.
"They're hear the evidence, rather than the rhetoric," he said.
Lingle said the commission will review the study proposals and consider cost as the process progresses. He said they will look to other funding sources to supplement the price. The South Dakota Lottery is within the state's Department of Revenue. If a study is finally approved, part of it will be funded by the lottery's yearly operating budget.