Sports Betting Quietly on the Ballot in South Dakota as Amendment B

Sports Betting Quietly on the Ballot in South Dakota

  • Sports wagering looks likely but not a sure bet for this week’s ballot in South Dakota
  • Amendment B restricts to Deadwood, SD with sports gambling added to menu
  • The bigger question of Online wagering must be decided later pending a “yes” vote

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Echoing similar political puzzles in Wyoming, Arizona, and other US states with Native Americans having legal tribal rites, South Dakota will phrase Amendment B on their ballot for voters to decide their upcoming fate involving sports wagering.

Should Amendment B earn a majority vote, the city of Deadwood in South Dakota plus the state’s Native American gaming facilities would legalize sports betting. The odds for passage including a larger question about the future of online gaming in South Dakota are still rather uncertain.

Basics on Amendment B

Gambling is restricted in the state by South Dakota’s constitution but authorizes the state legislature allowing certain “types of games” in Deadwood. A small, historic town in the western part of the state. That would currently include roulette, craps, keno, specific types of card games plus slot machines. The importance and motivation here are that the list would now be expanded to include sports wagering.

Federal law mandates that any gaming option approved by the legislature would also be allowed at any onsite reservation tribal casino. That is predicated upon the tribes choosing to offer the game and they reach an agreement with the state of South Dakota to gain approval. Should most voters approve Amendment B, the approximate 20 Deadwood commercial gaming entities and the state’s nine Native American casinos in the area would be eligible to take sports bets at their facilities.

Sports Wagering on the Clock

Assuming sports wagering is indeed approved by vote, the sure bet is it will not begin immediately. Most optimistic projections are a wait until the Summer or Fall of 2021.

This week’s ballot basically amends the state constitution while like action in other states, the lawmakers need further time to pass legislation that authorizes, regulates, and taxes sports wagering upon discussed need. The next step would require state officials to form rules and then license operators. From experience, that process could take at least six months to post the passing of the bill into law.

The Bigger Questions

Learning from other US state’s recent monthly reports for sports betting, the number one question to be decided will be the potential access for Online Wagering.

Amendment B only allows wagering in Deadwood and through federal statutes, only allows for federally recognized Native American tribes. Like other states are facing, it does not clarify the issue of deciding online wagering. It is a very gray area to assume state-wide mobile sports wagering will be allowed from computer servers originating in Deadwood.

That question will surely be the first to be decided within the South Dakota legislature next year should sports wagering become approved. Also, any gambling whatsoever outside of Deadwood remains highly controversial. South Dakota is known as a basically conservative “red state” with a large Republican base. Any form of new gambling outside of the Deadwood restricted hub might be challenging.

From a fiscal standpoint, it would be difficult to imagine sports wagering business plan without online wagering. South Dakota population is widely spread out and surely does not have the overall potential customer base of Pennsylvania or New Jersey. The basic convenience of sports betting for regular customers seems impractical compared to casino wagering in the Deadwood area.

What are Passage Odds

The odds of passage are quite difficult to determine. There has been little polling done on the Amendment B issue and not much money spent in support for or against the issue. Plus South Dakota is among the nation’s five smallest states, allowing for few voters to potentially pay attention.

Some gaming analyst groups project South Dakota residents like others in many US states are already gambling on sports through offshore wagering access or illegal bookmakers. This opportunity to aid the state and bet safer through a legalized process could swing many potentials “yes” votes.  It will be met by some anti-gambling political leaders and forces within the state urging many to vote “no”. Overall, the passage seems likely with the bigger fight determining if and how to introduce online wagering.

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.

Email: larry.gibbs@wsn.com