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OUR VIEW: This time, expansion of gaming might be acceptable

Gaming revenue at non-American Indian casinos in South Dakota is down, according to recent statistics that include Deadwood. We maintain that the decline could be because of a downturn in the economy, or gas prices, or various other economic reasons. Deadwood casino officials say the drop is associated with the state’s decision to ban smoking in most public places, including bars, restaurants and, yes, even casinos.

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Perhaps it’s a combination of all of the above. Or maybe it is solely because of the smoking ban.

Either way, we still say the smoking ban was needed for the sake of public health. It’s a new era, and those of us who simply want to have a casual drink and maybe play at a slot machine shouldn’t have to breathe second-hand smoke while we do it.

That’s our opinion, and the opinion of a majority of the state’s voters.

Now, a proposal is in the works that could give Deadwood casinos another option to attract gamblers. The plan would allow special slot machines to be linked to machines in Atlantic City, N.J. The linkage would allow for larger jackpots — called progressives — and could be a real attraction for people who perhaps want to play for larger winnings.

We have been vocal in the past about expanding gambling. Whereas we do not disagree with gambling in general, we don’t like programs that expand or enlarge current games. To us, that’s potentially preying on people who have a weakness or who are addicted to gambling.

However, maybe this time we’re willing to make an exception.

Since it’s possible the smoking ban did, indeed, take a bite out of Deadwood gaming, we’d be willing to allow this new proposal to link machines in Deadwood and Atlantic City. The South Dakota Gaming Commission will have to decide if it’s OK, since current rules don’t allow it.

Again, maybe this could boost numbers in Deadwood.

Also, it could be a great way to spread the word about Deadwood, the Black Hills and South Dakota in general on the East Coast.