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State House advances Deadwood amendment

PIERRE — Changing South Dakota’s constitution so that Deadwood casinos can offer more types of gambling took one step forward Thursday. The state House of Representatives voted 37-30 in favor of offering the proposed constitutional amendment for a statewide vote this fall.

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The state Senate is the next stop for HJR 1001. If senators agree, the amendment would appear on the November election ballot.

The casinos currently offer slot machines and various card games. The proposal calls for allowing roulette, craps and keno.

Any change for Deadwood casinos would apply to tribal casinos in South Dakota, too.

The resolution needed at least 36 yes votes from the House to advance to the Senate. The governor doesn’t have any direct role in a resolution.

Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, asked House members for their support. The resolution’s prime sponsor, Johns said Deadwood needs new types of games to be competitive.

Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, argued against it. Bolin said approving proposing a constitutional amendment should be evaluated “to the highest level of scrutiny” by legislators before sending it to the voters.

“We are approving and endorsing it, and they (voters) are ratifying it,” Bolin said. “Your vote is a statement of approval or disapproval of the merits of this amendment.”

Rep. Fred Romkema, RSpearfish, said Deadwood has a long history of “exuberant” lifestyle.

Romkema said Deadwood is no longer unique as a gambling destination and adding roulette, keno and craps would be an added attraction.

Johns said the only way to have additional gaming in Deadwood is by constitutional amendment.

Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, D-Yankton, said Deadwood’s gambling supporters could have worked the streets on a petition drive to put the amendment on the ballot, as they did for the original statewide vote in 1988 that legalized card games and slot machines there.

“That’s the proper procedure, not this,” Hunhoff said.