By a narrow 18-17 vote

South Dakota Senate passes mobile sports betting ballot proposal; bill faces hurdles in House

South Dakota Senate.
Reading time 2:07 min

The South Dakota Senate has narrowly passed a proposal to allow voters to decide whether to expand online sports betting across the state. Senate Joint Resolution 502 passed the Senate by a single vote on Monday, by an 18-17 vote. It has now moved off the Senate floor and over to the House of Representatives.

The proposal would put it to voters to amend the state constitution, but in order to get onto the November ballot, it must first secure approval in the state’s House. It is backed by the Sports Betting Alliance, a coalition of pro sports teams and betting operators, including giants DraftKings and FanDuel.

If passed, the measure would allow voters to decide if sports gaming should be legal via mobile devices and internet websites from anywhere in the Mount Rushmore State. The push to expand wagering comes two years after a constitutional amendment passed with 58% of the vote, allowing sports betting only in Deadwood.

Deadwood casinos.

Mobile wagers would be allowed as long as they are connected to a casino in Deadwood, which would have to keep their computer servers within city limits. Native American tribes would also be allowed to take online sports bets from anywhere within the state, with the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe voicing its support for the measure.

"Sports wagering is here and prevalent," said Sen. Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland, according to Associated Press. "With this vote, we can have it in the safest, smartest manner that will give South Dakota the most benefit."

However, SJR 502 making it to the November ballot is not a safe bet. The measure could face opposition in the state House which, last year, turned down a bill aimed at expanding state rules to allow online gaming.

Opponents have raised concerns that, by increasing access to sports betting, the gaming expansion would feed gambling-related problems. “When you can gamble away the income for your family to put food on the table, that's a problem,” said Republican Sen. Wayne Steinhauer. “We're trying to finance our state on the backs of those that have a problem.”

Additionally, Senate Joint Resolution 502 is also facing competition from a second bill seeking to allow online sports betting outside of Deadwood, but only via bars and other similar establishments that develop a business partnership with traditional Deadwood casinos.

"By having a kiosk in that location where those folks can walk into that location, spend their time, spend their money, watch the games on the TV, and place their bets through the kiosk to Deadwood, South Dakota," said Sen. Jack Kolbeck, R-Sioux Falls, further reports AP. "That's what I thought this was all going to be about."

However, backers of Resolution 502 claim there’s room within the ballot measure to also incorporate kiosk betting at land-based locations across the state. Ultimately, voters would have the final say on what they want in regards to the proposed expansion.

In addition to facing a likely opposition in the state House, the measure must also secure approval from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who had previously said she “was not in favor of expansion of gambling in the state of South Dakota.”