South Dakota residents to decide fate of sports gambling in November


South Dakota lawmakers haven’t wasted any time putting together a proposal that could bring sports gambling to the state. After failing with an effort last year, legislators tried again this past January, and their persistence has paid off. Both the House and the Senate have approved a measure to put a ballot entry on this coming November’s elections that will allow state residents to decide whether or not sports wagers should be allowed.

south-dakota-residents-to-decide-fate-of-sports-gambling-in-novemberSouth Dakota is in a unique situation that is shared by only a handful of states. For gambling expansion to occur, a change to the state’s constitution is needed, and this is only possible if South Dakota residents agree to the referendum. Senate Joint Resolution 501 (SJR 501) presents this referendum, and it has received its final approval as the House voted 36-27 to send it forward yesterday, according to the Argus Leader. 

If the majority of the residents say yes to the measure, state lawmakers will then determine how to proceed with the necessary rules and regulations for the industry. Chances are, proponents are already putting together their suggested framework so that, should sports gambling be given the green light, they can hit the ground running and try to have the local market up and running ahead of next year’s Super Bowl. With only a couple of months between this November and the NFL championship game, which always attracts a lot of bets, there won’t be a whole lot of time to get things in order.

Lawmakers supporting the measure realize that the state is losing money that it will never be able to recover. Since Iowa legalized the activity last year, South Dakota’s neighbor to the south is welcoming bettors with open arms and is more than happy to reap the financial rewards. According to a recent report by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, sportsbooks took in a total of $270.3 million in approximately six months after the activity was first introduced.

Opponents, such as state Representative John Mills, still fail to face reality. Gamblers are going to gamble – period. Illegal or legal, they will find a way to place their bets. At the very least, legalizing the activity will allow the state to capture the tax revenue that it is currently losing and, if Mills is concerned about protecting citizens from gambling problems, he can push for part of the proceeds to be used for gambling addiction programs, just like has been seen in every other state so far.

Realistically speaking, no lawmaker should have opposed the bill since SJR 501 doesn’t legalize any activity. It presents the question of whether or not the public wants sports gambling so the residents can decide. Appointed to be representatives of the people, it’s illogical that any lawmaker would try to prevent the residents from being able to weigh in on a topic they are tasked to decide based on the South Dakota Constitution.