- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A bill in the South Dakota Legislature allowing hotel bars in the western gambling town of Deadwood to serve liquor 24 hours a day is drawing the ire of smaller saloon owners who say the measure would put them at a disadvantage.

The bill that passed the House late last week on a 36-33 vote would allow Deadwood bars in hotels with 10 or more rooms to serve liquor around the clock, to accommodate gamblers. Current state law restricts liquor sales to between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m., or 19 hours a day.

The proposal was generated by an alliance of casino hotels calling itself the Deadwood Resorts Association, the Rapid City Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1nrI3mI ).

“We’re presenting this as part of the different approaches to increase the interest, the enthusiasm about coming to Deadwood,” lobbyist Roger Tellinghuisen said. “It’s about making Deadwood a destination. We don’t believe additional liquor sales, amounting to five more hours a day, will change people’s perceptions of Deadwood, but it allows us to be competitive with other markets.”

Saloon co-owner Louie Lalonde said the measure would give preferential treatment to casino resorts and devalue other businesses.

“This law should allow everyone to compete on a level playing field with the large casino resorts and it doesn’t,” he said. “It is being presented in a way that doesn’t include everybody up and down the street. It worries me, with empty storefronts in Deadwood, that it would discourage people from investing in a business that didn’t have that competitive edge.”

The Senate State Affairs Committee is to consider the bill on Feb. 26.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com