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A South Dakota sports betting referendum that will put legalization into the hands of the state’s citizens moved forward Tuesday.
SJR 501, which adds sports betting to the list of games that are legal in Deadwood, passed the House by a 36-27 vote with seven excused. The resolution passed by just a single vote since the vote required the majority of those elected, not present.
The slim passage comes a year after the House shot down a similar resolution. The Senate easily passed the resolution last month.
Proponents of SJR 501 expressed confidence in committee and during a House floor session that the referendum will pass in November’s election. No statistics were presented, but Rep. Timothy Johns and Deadwood Gaming Association lobbyist Roger Tellinghuisen referenced that a majority wanted SD sports betting through polling.
It’s important to note that all the resolution does is confirm if South Dakotans actually want sports betting. If passed, the legislature will be back to work next year, deciding what SD sports betting looks like.
That could potentially include an expansion of commercial sports betting outside of Deadwood, the only city where gambling is legal in the state. That seems unlikely considering how hard the city and its backers lobbied against expanded gaming in Yankton last year.
Per federal law, all Indian casinos in a state can offer anything allowed in a commercial casino. That would mean the state’s 11 Indian casinos could also offer sports betting.
If the state didn’t expand sports betting outside of Deadwood, though, some of the proponent arguments to get the resolution passed would be meaningless.
Rep. Tom Pischke suggested thousands of dollars are leaving South Dakota as residents bet on sports at Grand Falls Casino, just over the state border in Iowa.
Betfred opened its first US sportsbook at Grand Falls in late January. The casino gets a majority of its business from South Dakota’s Sioux Falls metro area’s 250,000 people, Betfred USA COO Bryan Bennett said.
But Grand Falls Casino sits on the eastern border of South Dakota while Deadwood, on the western border, is about six hours away.