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Deadwood sports betting amendment gets new life at Capitol

March 5, 2019
FILE - This Feb. 21, 2012 file photo shows the Midnight Star Gaming Emporium in Deadwood, S.D. A South Dakota House panel has rejected a measure that would have asked voters if sports betting should be legalized in historic Deadwood. The House State Affairs Committee voted 7-3 Monday, March 4, 2019, against the proposal. The proposed constitutional amendment would have allowed the Legislature to authorize wagering in Deadwood and at tribal casinos. (AP Photo/Amber Hunt, File)

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A measure proposing that South Dakota voters should decide on legalizing sports betting in Deadwood got new life Monday after earlier failing during a committee hearing.

The House State Affairs Committee voted 7-3 against the proposal, but representatives later used a procedural move to order its delivery to the floor. The measure has already passed through the Senate.

Deadwood Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Rodman said backers will exhaust their legislative options before gathering signatures to put the proposed constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot. The group’s goal is to get the measure in “front of the voters of South Dakota and let them decide.”

If supporters don’t find luck at the Capitol, then they would have to collect nearly 34,000 signatures 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.

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