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Senate: Let voters decide gaming issue

PIERRE -- South Dakota is halfway to a statewide vote on allowing unlimited gambling. The state Senate voted 20-15 Monday to place a constitutional amendment on the 2010 election ballot.

PIERRE -- South Dakota is halfway to a statewide vote on allowing unlimited gambling. The state Senate voted 20-15 Monday to place a constitutional amendment on the 2010 election ballot.

Senate Republican leader Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls gave notice of his intent to have the matter reconsidered.

He would need to find at least three senators to switch sides from supporters to opponents in order to stop the resolution from advancing to the House of Representatives for its decision.

Thirteen of the 14 Democratic senators voted in favor of the resolution Monday, while Republicans split ranks.

The resolution's prime sponsor is Senate Democratic leader Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls.

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Heidepriem said the purpose of the constitutional amendment is to give the governor and the Legislature the power, in the future, to approve new types of gambling, in response to threats from gambling in neighboring states.

A casino project currently is proposed for Larchwood, Iowa, east of Sioux Falls.

"To be honest, I don't know how else to address it. If I did, I would propose it," Heidepriem said.

Sen. Tom Nelson, R-Lead, spoke against the resolution. He said the supporters of the South Dakota measure should buy tennis shoes and carry petitions, just like the supporters of Deadwood gambling did 22 years ago, when the Legislature refused to put their proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Knudson said the resolution means either South Dakota is bluffing or the casino will move to the Sioux Falls area. "The reality is we're proposing to move this casino to Sioux Falls," he said.

"Let's see who the winner is between Larchwood and east Sioux Falls. That's not a bluff," said Sen. Gene Abdallah, R-Sioux Falls, a co-sponsor of the resolution, SJR 1. "If you don't think the voters of South Dakota are going to pass it, fine. Let them decide."

"This is not a bluff. I totally agree with him. This is designed to move casinos into South Dakota," Knudson responded.

Heidepriem said South Dakota, at least, would have the opportunity to recapture casino-tax revenue to address law enforcement issues if the casino is in Sioux Falls rather than Larchwood.

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