Legislation to allow Deadwood casinos to conduct sports betting has made its way to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) desk.
Senate Bill 44 easily passed the state House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 58-8. The sports betting legislation was approved in the Senate in early February by a vote of 32-2.
The sports betting bill calls for favorable operating conditions for interesting casinos and sportsbook companies. Each casino will need to pay just $2,000 — the cheapest in the nation — for a sports betting permit. Gross gaming revenue generated by sports wagering is subject to a nine percent tax, also low among states that have legalized the gambling activity.
Of course, South Dakota isn’t exactly known as a sports mecca. South Dakota also ranks No. 46 in the state population. But sports betting, should Noem sign, will nonetheless be another attraction Deadwood’s resorts and casinos can use to lure visitors.
Prior to the pandemic, the historic Black Hills Gold Rush mining town capped off a decade of tourism growth in 2019. More than 14 million visitors traveled to the remote gaming town that year.
Sports Betting Hurdles
South Dakota is the first state in 2021 to send sports betting legislation to a governor’s desk. There’s certainly no guarantee that the first-term governor will sign the measure.
I’m not in favor of expansion of gambling in the state of South Dakota,” Noem said in 2019. “Early indications are pretty clear that opening up state sports gambling to the public could end up costing us more than the actual revenue it would bring in.
“And so that’s a real concern for me. The juice isn’t worth the squeeze,” she explained at the time.
South Dakotans, however, disagree. Fifty-seven percent of voters backed a November 2020 ballot referendum. The poll asked if they support amending the state constitution to allow Deadwood casinos to operate sports betting. SB 44 additionally had large bipartisan support in the state Senate and House.
Mobile Not Included
After South Dakota voters approved amending the state constitution to allow sports betting in Deadwood, efforts in Pierre were made to authorize mobile sportsbook operations. That would have allowed people to wager a legal sports bet from anywhere inside the state’s borders.
However, the South Dakota Constitution retains the language that commercial gambling must only occur “within the city limits of Deadwood.” Some lawmakers argued keeping the interactive mobile sports betting servers inside Deadwood adhered to the constitutional mandate. More state politicians said it did not.
As a result, SB 44 only allows for land-based retail sports betting at Deadwood casinos. The bill additionally authorizes sports betting at the state’s nine tribal casinos, which operate as sovereign enterprises.
The necessity to place bets in-person is expected to greatly limit the market. In states that have authorized mobile betting, the vast majority of wagers have been facilitated over the internet.
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