Deadwood Sports Betting Voter Referendum Measure Dead, Proponents Going Grassroots

Posted on: March 5, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: March 5, 2019, 03:57h.

Gaming officials say legal sports betting in South Dakota would provide a critical boost to Deadwood tourism and subsequent casino and hospitality revenue, but it appears sportsbooks won’t be coming to the historic mining town for at least several years.

Deadwood sports betting casino
Deadwood is hoping to strike gold with sports betting. (Image: Flickr)

Lawmakers in the South Dakota capital of Pierre voted against a measure yesterday that would have put the issue of sports betting before voters during the 2020 election. The House State Affairs Committee voted 7-3 against Senate Joint Resolution 2. The upper legislative chamber passed the proposal by a 18-14 vote.

The resolution would have asked South Dakotans if they wished to amend the state constitution allow Deadwood casinos and Native American gaming venues to take wagers on sports.

We believe that people have a right to have their say in sports betting, and we want to give them that opportunity,” Deadwood Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Rodman said after the vote.

The US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on full-scale sports betting last May. For now, states are free to determine their own laws on the gambling format.

In South Dakota, the state legislature can pass proposals to place state constitution amendment questions before voters. Grassroot campaigns from citizens and political groups can additionally be initiated, but require 34,000 signatures to reach the voting booths.

Just Say No

It’s been a bad few days for proponents of gaming expansion in South Dakota.

Last week, the state’s Senate voted against legislation to end Deadwood’s monopoly on commercial gaming and allow a casino to be built in Yankton. The town is in the southeastern corner of South Dakota not far from Sioux City, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska.

Opponents to the casino referendum included the South Dakota’s Native American tribes, which have small gaming venues located throughout the state. When it comes to the sports betting proposal, critics opined that regulatory costs would annul any financial tax benefit.

Revenue Department Deputy Secretary David Wiest said both expansion measures garnered plenty of opponents, as casino liberalization is always controversial, and there was no guarantee revenue from sports betting would cover overhead. Governor Kristi Noem (R) has also made her position known that she doesn’t favor gaming expansion.

Grassroots Effort

Deadwood casinos have struggled in recent years, as gaming floors continue to spread across the US, and the town is no longer as talked about following the hit HBO series Deadwood concluding now more than a decade ago.

Rodman believes a grassroots campaign can still get the sports betting question in booths for next year’s election. The Deadwood gaming official says the gaming industry will organize a coalition to acquire the necessary 34,000 authorized signatures.

Proponents of the Yankton casino plan to do the same.

“It was just an easy vote for the legislature to say, ‘Yeah, I like what you’re doing, but why don’t you just go get signatures?'” Yankton Area Progressive Growth CEO Bernie Hunhoff stated.