Deadlocked in Deadwood 

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People are reflected in a casino window in downtown Deadwood, South Dakota. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images/AFP

The question as to whether or not to expand sports betting in South Dakota is still pending and the Deadwood Gaming Association is divided on the issue. However, state legislators are hammering out a deal to allow the referendum on November’s ballot to let the voters decide.  

Tourism or Expansion? 

If you want to place a sports bet in South Dakota then you better saddle up and ride on over to Deadwood because that’s the only place you can make a wager legally. Currently, four casinos in Deadwood, Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort, Tin Lizzie Gaming Resort, Gold Dust Casino, and Mustang Sally’s have a sportsbook and no mobile gaming outside of those premises is available. 

The casino industry is a big draw for the town and the monopoly on sports betting is another reason why tourists and out-of-towners would visit. And when people visit, they drink, eat, lodge, and shop which is nothing but a good thing for the local economy. If the only sportsbooks in South Dakota are located in Deadwood then many locals believe it should stay that way because of those reasons. 

However, there is also a contingent who believes that expanding sports betting statewide through the servers located in Deadwood would obviously expand the sports betting market exponentially and if Deadwood is getting a piece of that much bigger pie, then why not go for it?!  

Deadwood Gaming Association Split 

Members of the Deadwood Gaming Association are divided on the topic as some believe sports betting should be confined solely to the retail shops located in Deadwood. Yet others feel that statewide online sports betting would more than compensate for whatever losses the town took in terms of tourism as long as the servers, and a cut of the profits, run through Deadwood.  

Deadwood Gaming Association Executive Director Mike Rodman said, “We did not reach a consensus here in Deadwood on that bill. When Deadwood Gaming doesn’t have consensus, we don’t take a position.” 

Rodman went on to say, “Some of the operators in Deadwood believe that the biggest benefit of sports wagering is bringing people to Deadwood that engage in sports wagering and then engage in other activities in Deadwood, whether they play cards or buy a hotel room or eat in our restaurants. 

“There are those who believe that in order for Deadwood to compete with surrounding jurisdictions — like Iowa, Wyoming, Colorado, and soon-to-be Nebraska — that will have statewide mobile wagering, that we should have that too as long as that, of course, runs through Deadwood through a licensed gaming establishment. {They believe} the additional revenues from statewide would offset whatever revenues that they would be losing from fewer visits to Deadwood.” 

Sports betting launched in South Dakota on September 9th, 2021, after 58 percent of the voters approved, but only in brick-and-mortar locations in Deadwood. But now the resolution to consider online sports betting throughout South Dakota was razor-thin in favor as a Senate committee passed the bill 5-4 where it proceeded to the entire Senate body that gave its approval by an 18-17 margin.  

Supporters of expansion like Senator David Wheeler, R-Huron, said “The people in our state have said time and time again, please stop restricting our freedom, we want to engage in this activity.” 

Others like Sen. Jack Kolbeck, R-Sioux Falls, believe there is a middle ground to be had by allowing sports betting kiosks throughout the state in locations that procure a license but not via an online platform. 

Kolbeck stated, “Establishments that have a video lottery license should be able to participate in that by having a kiosk in that location where those people can walk into that location, spend their time, spend their money, watch the games on the TV and place their bets through the kiosk through Deadwood, South Dakota.” 

The House will now debate the merits of putting the matter on November’s ballot.