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Sports gambling expansion could be coming to South Dakota voters

The Senate approved a joint resolution to put a constitutional amendment on ballot that would allow mobile sports betting from anywhere in the state -- so long as the app is linked to servers in Deadwood. The resolution now moves to the House.

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Downtown Deadwood, South Dakota on Jan. 23, 2021.
Vondracek / Forum News Service
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PIERRE, S.D. — The expansion of sports gambling statewide could be coming to the voters, the South Dakota Senate determined on Monday, Feb. 7.

The body approved by the thinnest of margins, 18 to 17, a joint resolution that would bring a sports betting constitutional amendment to voters in November.

The amendment, if the House also passes the resolution, would allow anyone across the state to bet on sports, so long as the phone or laptop app used to place the wager would be connected to a server physically located inside Deadwood's city limits.

Sen. Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland, read on the Senate floor a letter from the owners of The Midnight Star casino in Deadwood, who he said lived in his district in southeastern South Dakota.

"[This] will allow the voters of South Dakota to leave no doubt whether anyone present in South Dakota placed wagers on their mobile phone or platform," Schoenfish said.

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The state's voters passed a constitutional amendment in 1988 allowing gambling, but only inside the old west city in the Black Hills.

Since then, voters have approved various other amendments — including the addition of sports gambling last year. But that amendment passed in November 2020 requires that gamblers be in Deadwood.

The Deadwood Gaming Association did not support or oppose the measure, Sen. Timothy Johns, R-Lead.

Sen. Jack Kolbeck, R-Sioux Falls, opposed the measure, saying the proposed constitutional amendment would miss an opportunity to force gambling patrons to, at least, go into a local pub or restaurant to place bets.

"Those other establishments that sell hamburgers and Coke and beer that have a video lottery license should be allowed to participate in that by having a kiosk," said Kolbeck, noting the kiosk would be linked to a Deadwood casino.

"We spend too much time on these darn phones anyway," said Sen. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford. "But when you can gamble away the income, the food for your family [from a patron's couch]? That's a problem."

But a number of members appeared hesitant to impose what they perceived to be unnecessary restrictions on South Dakotans, many of whom are already crossing state lines to wager on sports or doing so illegally on the internet.

Sen. David Wheeler, R-Huron, noted that he was "in favor of freedom and personal responsibility."

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"This resolution is an appropriate way to deal with the reality of what sports betting is," Wheeler said.

After passage, the joint resolution will go to the House of Representatives.

Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at cvondracek@forumcomm.com , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

MORE FROM CHRISTOPHER VONDRACEK:
The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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