S. Dakota voters could add Deadwood casino games

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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota voters would decide whether troubled Deadwood casinos could offer roulette, keno and craps under a proposed constitutional amendment narrowly endorsed by a House committee Wednesday.

The State Affairs Committee voted 5-4 for a measure that would put the proposal to a statewide vote on the November ballot.

Deadwood casinos now offer slot machines, poker and blackjack. If the Legislature decides to put the proposal on the ballot, voters would decide whether to add the three games aimed at attracting younger players.

Supporters noted that casinos in the historic Black Hills gambling town are dealing with a stagnant market, with January gambling revenues down 3.8 percent from the same month last year. Deadwood needs to offer roulette, keno and craps to compete with casinos in nearby states, particularly Iowa and Colorado, they said.

“Deadwood is in trouble,” said Sen. Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish, a sponsor of the measure. “Deadwood needs some new tools to put in the toolbox to draw more people to this state.”

Deadwood gambling officials said that when the town’s casinos first opened in 1989, their only real competition was in Nevada and Atlantic City. Nearly every state now has some kind of gambling, they said.

“As we see a market suffering, we have to evolve with it. We have to do something. We have to adjust to changing consumer demands,” said Caleb Arceneaux, president of the Deadwood Gaming Association.

The proposed constitutional amendment also would allow tribal casinos to offer the three additional games because federal law allows those tribal casinos to offer any gambling allowed elsewhere in a state. Seth Pearman of the Flandreau Sioux Tribe said adding roulette, keno and craps would help the tribe’s eastern South Dakota casino compete with a new casino located nearby in Iowa.

But opponents said the measure would expand gambling, increasing the crime, suicide, family violence and divorce caused by gambling addiction.

“It will escalate gambling addiction behavior,” said Dale Bartscher of the Family Heritage Alliance.

The State Affairs Committee also voted 6-2 to approve a measure that would change a law so casino bars in hotels with at least 10 lodging rooms could sell liquor around the clock. State law now restricts liquor sales to between 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Supporters said around-the-clock alcohol sales would help attract more conventions to the city.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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