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Sports betting in Deadwood? Senate endorses asking voters

February 14, 2019 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Senate passed a measure Wednesday that would ask voters to allow sports betting in Deadwood, a plan supporters said would help keep the historic mining town competitive as a gambling destination.

The chamber voted 18-14 to send the measure to the House. Republican Sen. Bob Ewing, the bill’s sponsor, said backers believe voters should be given the opportunity to decide if they’d like to have sports wagering available in Deadwood.

“Sports betting is and has been happening in our state for a long time illegally,” Ewing said. “It is illegal, so let’s correct that and make it legal.”

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The push comes after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way last year for all states to offer legal sports betting. Revenue Department Deputy Secretary David Wiest opposed the measure in a recent committee hearing, saying regulation costs would exceed revenues generated.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the Legislature to authorize wagering in Deadwood and at tribal casinos.

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 5-4 earlier Wednesday to send a measure that would put a proposed casino complex in Yankton on the ballot to the chamber’s floor without recommendation. It will take a majority vote to debate the bill.

Kasi Haberman, Convention and Visitor’s Bureau director in Yankton, said the Port Yankton casino and entertainment project is an effort to drive tourism for the city and state.

Opponents included tribes in Nebraska and South Dakota. Yankton Sioux Tribe Vice Chairman Jason Cooke said the tribe’s casino employs people and helps support programming including education. Cooke said Port Yankton would be “very detrimental” to his tribe.

The proposed constitutional amendment would ask voters to allow a nonprofit group one gaming license in the southeastern South Dakota city.