South Dakota Mobile Betting Barely Clears First Hurdle

South Dakota sports betting legalization attempts teetered and wobbled and yet, lawmakers were able to narrowly advance a proposal that will allow voters to decide if they want online sports betting in the state. The vote came down to a nail-biting 18-17 in favor of the measure on Monday and it showed a great divide in the state’s legislature.

More Hurdles to Clear on the Road to Progress

Yet, bipartisan bickering has now been put to rest and it’s down to voters to make up their mind if they want to amend the state constitution – well, almost. The proposal still needs to clear the House where it will find more pushback.

And if this is not enough, there is also Republican Gov. Kristi Noem who is not fond of gambling and is not likely to have a sudden change of heart. If history is any indicator, successful proposals may end up vetoed by a governor, as has happened many times since 2018 when the true sports betting legalization push began in earnest.

The state already enjoys sports betting and those who attend properties in Deadwood are offered a selection of wagering opportunities. However, there are those who believe that South Dakota isn’t raking in nearly as much as it should if the industry goes digital. The idea is to enable residents to be able to plonk down their wagers from anywhere in the state.

The fear, though, is that this would deplete Deadwood from revenue. On the plus side, though, it would bring more betting tax revenue for the state and it would not hurt Deadwood that much given that the town still allows casino gaming.

But it’s not just private companies that want a slice of the pie. Native American tribes would also want to be allowed to offer online betting – unlike those in, let’s say Florida and California. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe said that they would be happy to see the proposal clear.

Interestingly, the Deadwood Gaming Association has remained mostly quiet on the issue, at least publicly. Backchannel communication may be ongoing. The lobby pushing for a more liberal market is surprisingly coming out of the Republican’s end.

Mobile Sports Betting Clashes with Addiction Fears

Essentially, what Republicans are arguing is that mobile gambling is still happening and it still comes at the expense of the state, just like before legalizing retail sports betting. People are either betting outside the state or turning to offshore websites instead.

“Sports wagering and gambling is here and it’s very prevailing but with this vote, we can have in the smartest and safest manner that will give South Dakota the most benefit,” Republican Sen. Kyle Schoenfish told The Associated Press.

The argument against has been predicated on a familiar argument. Should there be an increase in gambling, and online gambling in particular, that would put many vulnerable people at risk of developing a gambling addiction some argue.

This argument has become a little trite over the years. Sugar, alcohol, and smoking have been the cause of a litany of health issues over the years, but they are given a break, and no “addiction” is ever associated with their mass consumption.

Of course, the opponents of liberalized gambling have a point in fearing that any increase in the activity should come with robust consumer protection measures. However, by denying online betting to state residents, lawmakers are denying them not just the opportunity to place a wager – lawmakers are denying them the opportunity to be safe and protected when they gamble.

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