Deadwood, South Dakota Invites US Attorneys General to Internet Gambling Summit, Legalization Pulse Taken

Posted on: May 3, 2016, 03:44h. 

Last updated on: May 3, 2016, 03:48h.

Deadwood, South Dakota, best-known as the scene of the infamous Dead Man’s Hand of Wild Bill Hickok fame nearly 150 years ago, hosted the Presidential Initiative Summit with the National Association of Attorneys General on Monday. Internet gambling was a topic of discussion, and the majority of former US state AGs in attendance seemed opposed to its legalization.

Deadwood, South Dakota former US AG summit
Gambling industry representatives and former state attorneys general participated in an Internet gambling discussion on Monday in Deadwood, South Dakota, to review the merits and drawbacks of online casinos. (Image: Jake Shama/The Daily Republic)

Oddly, only former AGs were given the floor. Current ones attended the summit, but were given no official voice.

Moderated by former Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen, a panel consisting of representatives from the gaming industry, as well as the aforementioned former attorneys general, gathered with current AGs to present their views regarding online casinos.

Also having a voice were federal and local law enforcement and both public and private companies, and the dialogue primarily focused on why certain gambling enterprises opposed online wagering.

The most outspoken adversary, to absolutely no one’s surprise, was the Las Vegas Sands Senior VP of Government Relations, Andy Abboud. LVS is Sheldon Adelson’s gaming operation, and pretty much everyone knows by now, he sees Internet gaming as tantamount to the antichrist.

“Why would the largest gaming company in the world be opposed to Internet gambling?” Abboud asked. “We don’t think it’s about competition. We just think it’s bad public policy.”

Counter Points

While Abboud called iGaming a job killer by stating that traditional brick-and-mortar gamblers typically also spend money at a restaurant and stay overnight at resorts, the American Gaming Association’s Whit Askew and Deadwood Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Rodman countered with its potential benefits.

Askew emphasized that the land-based casino market generates roughly $240 billion annually in the United States, whereas online gambling could potentially be an industry with anywhere between $150 and $500 billion in generated revenue, if all 50 states opted to legalize.

Obviously, that’s a very, very big “if” at this point in time, with only three states on board right now, and protracted battles in the states with the biggest potential, like California, ongoing.

“It has a big impact if [Internet gambling were to be] regulated and taxed,” Rodman said. “It could create more jobs, more tax revenue, and the public would be protected.”

Deadwood has 15 land-based venues offering table games and slots, but most are relatively small establishments. The town approved craps and roulette last July.

Gambling Alive in Deadwood

Today, Deadwood is reportedly one of the most gambling-addicted jurisdictions in America, at least according to a recent study by The finance website found that South Dakota leads the country in “gambling friendliness” and has the highest number of casinos per capita.

Deadwood was founded illegally back in the 1870s during the Black Hills Gold Rush. The settlement flourished as miners rushed to the Dakotas in hopes of finding gold.

Saloons soon followed, as did Wild Bill Hickok, famous in the gambling community as the man who held a pair of aces and eights when he was shot in the back of the head and killed.

Though cards were commonplace in the 19th Century, Deadwood didn’t officially legalize gambling until 1989.

The first small town in the United States to end gambling prohibition, Deadwood’s campaign to bring back card games and slots, this time with legal permission, was an effort to revitalize the struggling city.

And it worked, maybe too well, in fact.

Allowing small hotels and establishments to open casinos along historic Main Street quickly brought an influx of tourism and revenue to the area. The decision led to the refurbishing of historic properties into new hotel resorts, but also threatened certain landmarks as larger hospitality companies moved in.

If Askew’s projections are correct, online casinos could create a second gambling boom for local and state governments. But for now, it appears most state attorneys general are on Abboud’s side.