Sports gambling in South Dakota faces difficult road

The newly-elected governor has repeatedly spoken out against gambling expansion

Although a sports gambling bill in South Dakota was already approved by a legislative committee, the road ahead for legalized gambling remains difficult and is not going to be without challenges. Most notably, the state’s new governor, Kristi Noem, has said on more than one occasion that she wouldn’t approve any new gambling bills; however, there is still a glimmer of hope, as any bill would ultimately have to go before voters to let them decide.

The bill heard by the committee, Senate Joint Resolution 2, only marginally survived, with the final vote 4-3. The division is a point that gambling expansion opponents will use in their favor, supported by the fact that the new governor is also against the idea.

Even before she became governor, Noem made it obvious that she’s not a fan of allowing the gambling industry to grow in the state. She said last May, “Personally, I’m opposed to expanding gambling, but this issue will ultimately be decided by voters since it will require a constitutional amendment.”

Prior to the committee considering Senate Joint Resolution 2, a hearing was held to cover the subject. In attendance was Revenue Deputy Secretary, David Wiest, who argued that the projections of $184,700 in tax revenue were not realistic. He said they were based on revenues generated by Nevada, but added that the gambling capital already has an established gambling industry, while South Dakota would have to create its industry from scratch.

Wiest predicts that tax revenue from sports gambling would be only about $80,000. This makes the introduction of the activity economically unviable, as the costs to manage any oversight would be greater than what was earned. Noem, after Wiest spoke at the hearing, said that Wiest had done a good job expressing her views, which is another way to say that she most likely won’t sign off on any sports gambling legislation.

Ultimately, voters will decide the fate of gambling in the state. However, for a measure to appear on a ballot, it first has to pass through the state’s Congress. With the governor not willing to support the measure, chances are good that any gambling bill will dissolve before it gets to her desk.

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