The South Dakota Senate narrowly passed a bill Monday that would put the question of mobile sports betting before the voters in the fall.
Senate Joint Resolution 502 passed, 18-17. It now goes before the South Dakota House, where it faces an uncertain future.
“There is great support for 502 in the House but I expect the vote will be close over there as well,” state Sen. Kyle Schoenfish, the main proponent of the bill, said in an email to Gaming Today.
“Any subject that relates to gambling or wagering usually draws strong opposition in the legislature but whenever the subject is on the ballot it draws strong support from the voters.”
SJR 502 would formally ask voters to amend the state constitution to allow for mobile betting. If approved, mobile sports betting would begin in the summer of 2023.
Where Sports Betting Stands Now In South Dakota
Sports betting in the Mount Rushmore State was legalized after a 2020 ballot initiative approved the practice within the city limits of Deadwood. The measure passed with 58% of the vote. There are several casinos in the city, and bets can be placed only while on site.
Neighboring states such as Iowa and Wyoming offer mobile sports betting. Several proponents during the debate Monday mentioned they would rather have that money spent at home than going across state lines.
During his own remarks, Schoenfish, a Republican, read a statement from the Midnight Star Casino in Deadwood supporting the expansion of sports betting because of what is going on nearby.
“We feel this resolution allows South Dakota to compete with those markets,” the statement said.
Opponents Argue It Hurts South Dakota Business
State Sen. Jim Bolin, a Republican, said previous attempts to expand gambling required supporters to collect signatures. He thinks FanDuel, DraftKings, and others should have to face the same test. Furthermore, by forcing the big companies to pay signature gatherers, as smaller casinos were required, it would help employ residents.
Most of the emails Bolin said he receives on the issue say, “I want to sit on my couch and gamble on ball games.” This measure “isn’t going to bring all kinds of people” into the state to spend money, he said.
State Sen. Wayne Steinhauer, a Republican who said he does not gamble, said gambling should be restricted to the casinos.
“We spend too much time on the darn phones as it is,” he said, noting it would be wrong to encourage people to spend family money meant for food on easily accessible gambling.
Next Steps For Mobile Betting In South Dakota
Schoenfish said in his email he was open to amendments in the House if it would help move the process along.
The bill, as written, would allow for mobile betting throughout the state provided the servers were located in Deadwood. Tribal casinos would also be allowed to offer sports betting.
The South Dakota Legislature adjourns March 28, so the House has roughly six weeks to consider the measure. It would then be sent for the approval of Governor Kristi Noem, who has indicated in the past she is opposed to expansion.
Reporter Rebecca Hanchett contributed to this story.