PIERRE, South Dakota — Supporters of allowing three new voter-approved games in Deadwood were successful in convincing a Senate panel that authorizing keno, craps and roulette in the historic mountain town is the will of South Dakota voters.
The Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved 7-1 a proposal to allow the games in Deadwood. It was the measure's first stop in the Legislature after 57 percent of voters in November approved constitutional Amendment Q, which gave the Legislature the authority to implement the new games.
Advocates say the games are crucial to prop up Deadwood's flat gambling revenue and keep it competitive with other nearby gambling hotspots such as Colorado and Iowa. They also argue that the majority of South Dakota residents support their efforts.
"We are losing business to those nearby states that already offer craps, roulette and keno," Deadwood Mayor Chuck Turbiville told the committee. "We certainly thank the citizens of South Dakota for their 25 years of support of Deadwood gaming (and) thank the voters for their overwhelming positive response to allow Deadwood to offer these additional gaming options."
Turbiville said the new games are part of the city's broader revitalization efforts for its visitor industry, and he highlighted Deadwood's contribution to state and local tax revenue.
Caleb Arceneaux, CEO of Liv Hospitality, which manages Cadillac Jack's Gaming Resort and Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort, said that Deadwood's casinos need to diversify their offerings to compete nationally.
He said consumers can easily hop on a cheap flight or take a short drive to access the games, which gamblers are increasingly asking for.
But opponents argued that new gambling provokes addictions and causes social and financial problems for families in South Dakota. Ron Walker, pastor at the Little White Church in Hill City, said gambling can lead to suicide, homelessness and domestic violence.
"Gambling has torn the fabric of the society of our state, and (this bill) will tear it further," Walker told the committee. "Protect the citizens of our state from this scourge."
Some members of the committee said they recognized opponents' concerns. But, Sen. Dan Lederman said South Dakota voters cast their ballots to approve the games for Deadwood.
"I think it would be out of line for this committee to reject that decision made by the people," he said.
Advocates were adamant that allowing the three games doesn't represent an expansion of gambling in Deadwood. The bill would tuck keno, craps and roulette into existing law, which imposes a 30-game cap per casino retail license. So if an operator was at that ceiling, they would have to sub out a different machine or game.
"This is not an expansion of gaming. One device goes in, one device has to come out," Arceneaux said in the hearing, adding afterward: "It's the will of the people."
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