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YST's Fort Randall Casino one step closer to doubling slot machine capacity

WAGNER -- The Yankton Sioux Tribe's Fort Randall Casino is one step closer to doubling the number of slot machines allowed on tribal ground. A public hearing was held Thursday at the Wagner Boys & Girls Club to listen to any support or opposi...

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Yankton Sioux Tribe Gaming Commission Chairman Arthur Standing Cloud, left, listens as South Dakota Commission on Gaming Executive Secretary Larry Eliason, right, speaks at a public hearing at the Wagner Boys & Girls Club Thursday. (Evan Hendershot/Republic)

WAGNER - The Yankton Sioux Tribe's Fort Randall Casino is one step closer to doubling the number of slot machines allowed on tribal ground.

A public hearing was held Thursday at the Wagner Boys & Girls Club to listen to any support or opposition to a proposed gaming compact between the state of South Dakota and the Yankton Sioux Tribe.

After hearing no opposition to the plan to increase the tribe's allowed total of slot machines from 250 to 500, the compact will now head to the governor's desk for approval.

According to Arthur Standing Cloud, chairman of the Yankton Sioux Gaming Commission, the need for a new compact revolved around two sticking points.

To double the number of slot machines offered at the casino, Standing Cloud said a limited waiver of sovereign immunity had to be included in the compact. According to the limited waiver, the tribe would agree not to use a defense of sovereign immunity against any claims covered under the casino's liability insurance.

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But Standing Cloud said the increase in slot capacity was the major feature the tribe sought in the compact negotiations, so the tribe agreed to its inclusion.

"Actually, we came down to the main one, (which) was increasing the machines," Standing Cloud said. "And to get to the 500, we had to insert that limited waiver."

Standing Cloud said the agreement would not only allow the tribe to increase its slot machine capacity, but it would also return a modicum of sovereignty to the tribe.

"Our thing is the sovereignty, being able to do things ourselves," Standing Cloud said.

Under the former compact, Standing Cloud said the state was handling background checks on certain casino employees. According to Standing Cloud, the new compact would return that power to the tribe.

"We felt that we've been in business 20 years, we can handle that ourselves," he said.

The agreement will replace the 2001 compact signed by then-Gov. Bill Janklow. Once signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, the agreement will allow the Yankton Sioux Tribe to continue operating slot machines and blackjack and poker tables. The tribe can also offer wagers on horses and greyhounds and the games of craps, keno and roulette. The new compact also maintains the previous agreement's lack of a maximum wager limit for bets placed on horse and greyhound races.

Like the previous agreement, the gaming proceeds can still used to provide public services for the citizens of the area, but the use of the proceeds cannot be used to influence the outcome of any local, state or federal election conducted within South Dakota.

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All nine of the tribes in South Dakota have gaming compacts with the state, and the Yankton Sioux Tribe's compact will be subject to review at four-year intervals.

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