The legalization of sports betting is part of South Dakota’s legislative agenda for this year, but lawmakers, including the state’s newly sworn-in Governor, seem to have clashing views on whether the practice should be authorized
Senate Joint Resolution 2 passed on Wednesday the Senate State Affairs Committee with a narrow 5-4 margin, and is now to be debated on the full Senate floor. The legislation was on the Senate’s calendar Friday, but lawmakers decided to leave the sports gambling issue for next week.
With Sen. Bob Ewing being its prime sponsor, the resolution would ask state voters to decide whether they want sports betting in Deadwood and at South Dakota’s tribal gaming venues at the 2020 referendum. However, the piece needs to survive through the state Legislature first, and it does not seem that this will be an easy task.
Sen. Ewing and other sports gambling proponents believe the legalization of the practice would create a new tax revenue generator and would provide an additional draw for visitors of Deadwood city.
However, Senate Joint Resolution has many opponents and they have already begun pushing hard to prevent the piece of legislation from making it through all pending legislative hurdles. The South Dakota Department of Revenue is one of the main opponents of the sports betting legalization effort, arguing that the practice would cost the state more to regulate than the projected tax revenue it would bring.
Where Does Gov. Noem Stand on Sports Betting?
During the Wednesday debate that preceded the positive Committee vote, the South Dakota Revenue Deputy Secretary David Wiest was among the officials in attendance to speak against the sports gambling legislation.
According to estimates by the Legislative Research Council, Deadwood sports betting could generate about $184,700 in tax revenue for the state. However, Mr. Wiest said Wednesday that the projections were not that accurate as the Council used Nevada as a financial model but that state had a mature sports gambling industry.
According to the Revenue Deputy Secretary, South Dakota could receive about $80,000 in betting tax revenue, which would not be enough to hire an individual that would regulate the industry and train employees on sports wagering.
Commenting on Mr. Wiest’s opinion on betting, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said on Friday that she was not in favor of any form of gambling expansion in the state and that the Revenue Deputy Secretary had done a great job identifying her exact concerns regarding the legalization and regulation of sports betting.
However, South Dakota voters will be the ones to have the final say on the issue if Senate Joint Resolution 2 survives.
There are opponents of this particular piece of legislation who want to bring sports betting across South Dakota and not just limit it to Deadwood. Senate Republican assistant leader Jim Bolin said Friday that Deadwood alone would not attract enough sports gamblers who would offset the costs of regulation. On the other hand, if sports betting becomes legal across the state, it would certainly bring enough additional revenue, he further pointed out.
As mentioned earlier, the Senate Joint Resolution 2 debate is set to resume next week with more comments on whether it should be allowed to move any further into the Legislature.
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