This is going to continue to get ugly. A few thoughts on gaming in SD.

From the Rapid City Journal:
Tribes want more gambling
By Chet Brokaw,
Associated Press Writer

PIERRE — The Oglala Sioux Tribe wants to build a new casino on the eastern side of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to draw customers off Interstate 90. Across the state, the Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe wants to add 500 machines in its casino near Watertown to attract more visitors.

Officials of the two tribes told state lawmakers on Friday they hope to negotiate new gambling agreements with the state that will give them more leeway in expanding their casino operations so they can boost other parts of their economies.

The Legislature’s State Tribal Relations Committee discussed tribal casinos and the gambling compacts that are negotiated between the state and tribes.“I can see no reason why the state of South Dakota puts any kind of limit on our tribes for gaming,” Rep. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, a member of the committee, said.


The Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribe’s casino operations now employ 826 people, with 653 of them living in South Dakota. It has an annual payroll of $15.9 million, and revenue is used to support housing programs, the tribal college, a drug and alcohol treatment program and the tribe’s economic development efforts, Crawford said.

The tribe wants an additional 500 slot machines as part of the expansion plan to make the casino near Watertown a destination that will draw more customers from a wider area, Crawford said.
Will this issue end up in front of the legislature? Probably. Will it also end up in court? That's a 'probably' as well.

State/tribal issues are about as 'ugly' a dividing issue as you can find in South Dakota. In this instance, you have the legitimate concerns of State Government in halting the expansion of 'Las Vegas' casino style gambling in the state. But throw the state/tribal interplay into the mix and it becomes tinged with racial overtones. And what would normally be a simple jurisdictional issue between governmental entities divides more than governments.

Of course South Dakota doesn't want two of the nation's poorest counties within it's boundaries, and recognizes the desperate need for economic development in those areas. But as in the case of Pine Ridge, is a 500 machine casino going to be the answer to all their ills?

Just like South Dakota's addiction to video lottery funds, is their attempt for a gambling fix going to be a short term fix for an ailment that ends up as a permanent habit?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not an anti-gambling cruasader. I buy lotto and and scratch tickets, although I quit video lottery after the employee of a family business stole just shy of $200,000 from one of my parents. After a year in jail, we're getting restitution of $160,000 at about $250 a month. And I'm not holding my breath on ever seeing the full amount back. (But grumbling about victim restitution in SD is for another day).

But the whole point of this post is that I think gambling is a poor economic engine. Yes, it generates lots and lots of cash. But if it went away tomorrow, would those same communities survive the loss?

Philosophically, that type of revenue should be for extras or to enhance a community. Not to base an entire economy on. Because South Dakota voters can be fickle on things like that.

They've tried to put the Video Lottery genie back into the bottle on several occasions. There's even been threats by anti-gambling zealot JoDean Joy for another attempt at the ballot this year.

If a wave of anti-gambling sentiment swept South Dakota, and video lottery was removed from the public, do you think that would be the end? I think they'd consider that just the start. And I suspect Casinos would be next in the crosshairs.

And those communities that need the money the most would suffer the worst in the end.


Anonymous said…
No PP a 500 machine casino isn't going to be the answer to all the problems on the Pine Ridge. But it might be a part of the answer. Economic development is like a puzzle with many different pieces coming together to form the final picture.
Douglas said…
Gambling is never a real solution to economic problems. It is an evil and irresponsible shortcut tax system. It certainly should not be the mainstay of political parties that claim they have family values.

That said, I suggest that no gambling machines in South Dakota can run on cash. The only way any machines or gambling in South Dakota should be allowed is with a "SD Gambler Debit Card".

Those wishing to gamble could deposit cash into a Debit card system at county treasurers. The SD taxes would be pealed out at the front end.

Deposit $100 and get a net after tax debit card balance of $80 or $90 or whatever the irresponsible legislature thinks should be the state's pound of flesh.

No expensive auditing of the gambling facilites or machines. Just make sure they can't eat cash.

And, then if somebody is seen to be gambling enormous sums of money with no visible signs of economic support, some alarm bells could be ringing in some official's office. Addicted gamblers might be limited to a few dollars a week ...whatever their families or caretakers will allow.

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