South Dakota Voters to Decide on Sports Betting After Legislation Passed House

  • Senate Joint Resolution SJ501 technically passed the House by one vote
  • It allows residents to vote on sports betting legalization in a November referendum
  • If approved, the earliest sports betting could launch is summer 2021
  • The only non-tribal gambling offered in South Dakota is in Deadwood
Mount Rushmore in South Dakota
South Dakota voters will get to weigh in on sports betting in a November referendum after legislation passed the state House on Tuesday. [Image:]

Legislation squeaked by in the House

South Dakota has taken a step closer to legal sports betting, with the state House of Representatives signing off on Senate Joint Resolution 501. SJ 501 puts a referendum on the November 2020 ballot to allow the residents of the state to vote on whether or not they want to legalize sports betting.

The Joint Resolution passed the Senate 24-10 on February 11 and then got through the House 36-27 on March 3.

SJ 501 technically passed by just one vote

The latest vote is actually a much closer one than it appears, as seven members were listed as Excused from voting. Because legislation must pass by a majority based on the total members of the House and not just the ones present for the vote, SJ 501 technically passed by just one vote.

A similar bill had failed about a year ago.

South Dakotans will vote in November

This week’s vote means that the South Dakota legislature approves of sports betting, but the ultimate decision is made by the residents of the state.

“We need to have that conversation with the voters on what they would like to see for the sports wagering,” Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, told KOTA TV.

July 1, 2021 is the absolute earliest that any sportsbook could go live

The referendum requires only a simple majority to pass in November. The rules and regulations will then have to be crafted by lawmakers during the 2021 legislative year. July 1, 2021 is the absolute earliest that any sportsbook could go live.

Deadwood: Wild West gambling town

Interestingly, the only legal gambling in South Dakota outside of tribal land is in Deadwood. Sports betting would also be restricted to Deadwood. Iowa’s recently launched sports betting industry could be a model for the Mount Rushmore State.

In his interview with KOTA TV, Rodman described that it would be “something similar to what Iowa is doing, where there are sports wagering lounges in the casinos and you can go in and sign up, but yet have that mobile gaming option.”

As Iowa borders the southeast corner of South Dakota, many residents cross the border to place bets. Legalizing sports betting could help keep that money in the state, though Deadwood is all the way on the opposite end of the state.

Deadwood grew out of the gold rush, becoming a legendary Wild West town. It became home to Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, though the latter only lived there for a few weeks. He holds an infamous place in poker history, famously assassinated while playing in a poker game. The hand he was holding, Aces and Eights, is known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.”

Deadwood nearly became a ghost town by the late 1900s. But when gambling was legalized in 1989, the town was revived, becoming a tourist destination.

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