A South Dakota House panel on Monday rejected a measure proposing that voters should decide on legalizing sports betting in Deadwood, but supporters said they would likely gather signatures to put it on the 2020 ballot anyway.
The House State Affairs Committee voted 7-3 against the proposal, which had already been passed by the Senate. Deadwood Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Rodman told committee members that the historic mining town needs to offer customers the gambling products they request and that other states provide.
Rodman said after the hearing that he thinks casino operators will want to move forward with collecting the nearly 34,000 signatures necessary to put the measure to a statewide vote. In South Dakota, the Legislature can place a constitutional change before voters or amendment supporters can gather names. Petitions are due in November.
“We believe that people have a right to have their say in sports betting, and we want to give them that opportunity,” Rodman said.
Deadwood is known as the city where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down in 1876 while playing poker in a saloon, and after gambling was legalized there in 1989, Deadwood became a major force in South Dakota’s tourism industry.
Sports wagering would provide another amenity for visitors, providing a boost for hotels, shops and restaurants, Rodman told the committee.
Lynzie Montague, who oversees two properties in Deadwood for Liv Hospitality, said sports wagering could help with employee retention, generate revenue and attract extra tax dollars. She said sports betting could be key to the survival of the town.
“In our peak season, it’s like Christmas every day. Casinos and business are making money, we hire additional associates and we enthusiastically embrace our guests and foster new relationships,” Montague said. “This quickly comes to an end once October hits and the offseason is on the horizon.”
Representing Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s administration, Revenue Department Deputy Secretary David Wiest opposed the measure, saying it’s more gambling and that regulation costs would exceed revenues generated.
“Gov. Noem has made it clear that she does not wish to have gambling expanded in South Dakota,” Wiest said.
The push this session comes after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way last year for all states to offer legal sports betting. The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the Legislature to authorize wagering in Deadwood and at tribal casinos.
In 2014, 57 percent of voters approved an amendment that paved the way for allowing keno, craps and roulette in Deadwood.