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South Dakota Senate OKs online sports bets ballot question

February 7, 2022 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A proposal to allow voters to decide whether to expand online sports betting across South Dakota narrowly passed the state Senate on Monday.

The proposal, which would put it to voters to amend the state constitution, passed by a single vote in the Senate, dividing Republicans who control the chamber. To get onto November ballots, the proposal still needs approval in the House and faces opposition from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

Lawmakers’ push to expand sports betting comes two years after a constitutional amendment passed with 58% of the vote and allowed sports wagers to be placed in Deadwood. The tourist town in the Black Hills is famous for being the spot where Wild Bill Hickok was gunned down in 1876 while playing poker in a saloon. It has become a force in South Dakota’s tourism industry since gambling was legalized there in 1989.

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The proposed constitutional amendment would allow people to place sports bets anywhere in the state through mobile devices or electronic platforms, as long as the wagers are connected to a casino in Deadwood. The casinos would have to keep their computer servers within city limits.

Native American tribes also would be allowed to take online sports bets from anywhere in the state. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe voiced support for the proposal.

The Deadwood Gaming Association, which pushed to allow sports betting in the past, did not take a position.

Republican lawmakers argued that plenty of online sports betting is already happening in the state — just through companies that skirt state laws by registering outside the country.

“Sports wagering and gambling is here and it’s very prevailing but with this vote we can have in the smartest and safest manner that will give South Dakota the most benefit,” said Republican Sen. Kyle Schoenfish.

Opponents raised concerns that increasing access to sports betting would feed gambling addictions.

“When you can gamble away the income for your family to put food on the table, that’s a problem,” said Republican Sen. Wayne Steinhauer. “We’re trying to finance our state on the backs of those that have a problem.”

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way in 2018 for all states to offer legal sports betting, and nearly 20 states allow online wagers, including South Dakota’s neighbor states of Iowa, Wyoming and Montana.