Amendment B Would Add Sports Gambling in Deadwood

Posted on: November 2, 2020, 08:18h. 

Last updated on: November 4, 2020, 06:55h.

The way South Dakota Sen. Bob Ewing sees it, residents are going to neighboring states to wager on sports games. So, why not keep them and their dollars at home?

The bustling Deadwood, S.D., casino scene could get another boost if South Dakota voters approve Amendment B on Tuesday. (Image: Keloland)

Ewing (R-Spearfish) is one of the sponsors of Amendment B, which will be on the ballot for Tuesday’s election. If it passes, it would allow the South Dakota Legislature to include betting on sporting events at Deadwood’s multitude of casinos.

People are already participating,” Ewing told on Monday. “They’ve been doing it illegally, but it’s been happening anyway. This will solve that problem and people will have a little more comfort level betting on their favorite teams.”

An analysis conducted in 2018 by the South Dakota Legislative Research Council projected gross revenue on sports gambling to surpass $2 million. A gaming industry study predicted triple that amount.

If Amendment B passes, the first bets could be taken sometime during the second half of 2021.

Historic Deadwood

In its heyday, Deadwood had a population of about 25,000. The legendary Wild Bill Hickok was killed playing poker in the city in 1876. Today, the population is about 1,300. But it is home to a bustling casino scene that has made it an invaluable part of the state.

According to the South Dakota Legislative Research Council study, Deadwood’s casinos generate a gross revenue that tops $100 million per year. According to the Deadwood Gaming Association, its casinos during the fiscal-year that ended June 30 contributed almost $14.7 million in tax revenue for historic preservation and tourism, as well as city, county, and state governments.

“Deadwood receives a pretty good chunk of it, but they, in turn, share it in our local area with the schools and the towns,” Ewing said. “A lot of it goes to historic preservation, which isn’t just for Deadwood. They give funds all over the state of South Dakota for worthy projects. They’re very generous with the money.”

There are 25 casinos in Deadwood, the first opening in 1989. In 2014, 57 percent of voters passed an amendment that expanded Deadwood’s offerings with craps, keno, and roulette. The addition of sports gambling is the next step in their evolution, proponents say.

I’ve always supported Deadwood and their gaming in our community because it’s a huge asset for our community, as well as the state and the funds that they receive from all of it,” Ewing said.

“I’ve always supported them adding different games due to the fact that communities that surround us in other states have a lot of these games already. It puts Deadwood on a more level playing field.”

If Amendment B passes, the Legislature will set up the rules and regulations, as well as determine whether there will be  apps for online betting.

“We think the Legislature will look at that, because it is being successfully done in both Iowa and Colorado right now, and that would give everyone in South Dakota that option to legally bet on sporting events,” said Mike Rodman, the executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, to

Fear of Gambling Addiction

One of the opponents of Ewing’s bill is the Speaker of the House, Steven Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls). His concerns are two-fold. The first is the limited upside. The aforementioned report from the South Dakota Legislative Research Council projects additional tax revenue of less than $185,000. The second is an increased risk of gambling addiction.

“This isn’t a liberty issue or a revenue issue, this is a life issue,” Haugaard wrote in a pamphlet assembled by South Dakota’s office of the secretary of state that explains the pros and cons of Amendment B and other ballot questions.

“Sports can already be an obsession. It shouldn’t be a training ground for young people to develop a gambling addiction. The few dollars that would come from sports betting pales in comparison to the damage it causes. We are the second-most gambling dependent state in the nation. We don’t need to make that worse.”

Ewing acknowledged Haugaard’s concerns, but said the positives outweigh the risks.

No one’s got a gun held to their head telling them they have to gamble. It’s a permissive thing that those folks that do enjoy it will have that opportunity,” he told

Amendment B also would allow sports gambling at the state’s tribal-run casinos.

Gov. Kristi Noem, who opposed a similar measure in 2019, has reversed course this time.