A Setback for Casino Gaming in South Dakota

  • South Dakota vote against plans for a new land-based casino in Yankton.
  • Senators voted 23-12 against the plans.
  • The news comes as a setback for casino gaming in the U.S., a country with long-standing constitutions and complex politics threaten offline and online gambling. 

For some, the continued opposition to online casino and offline gambling in North America remains something of a mystery. While there are deep-rooted religious and supposedly morale objections to gambling in certain states, this alone does not explain the struggles that certain lawmakers have faced when trying to pass legislation that would legalise specific practices.

South Dakota is the latest U.S. state to vote against the expansion of its existing gambling industry, after senators voted against a resolution that would potentially lead to the construction of a fully-functional casino venue in the town of Yankton.

In this article, we’ll appraise precisely what happened in the vote, and what it says about the gambling industry as a whole in North America.

What Precisely have Senators Voted Against?

The proposal was brought by the so-called Port Yankton Project, and ultimately called for the construction of a bricks-and-mortar casino as a way of reviving the local community and generating significant tax revenue.

More specifically, the initial resolution (known as Senate Joint Resolution 9) called for an amendment to the states’ existing constitution that would subsequently allow a gambling venue to be built within the region. If passed, this would have enabled lawmakers to include the construction proposal on a ballot in November, and potentially lead to the casino being built as planned.

Despite the proposed financial benefits of the project and its potential to create jobs and prosperity in the region, senators however voted 23-12 against the initial resolution. This has scuppered the project before it ever really got off the ground, and it is not yet known whether the underlying proposal will be revised and revisited in the near-term.

Why has this Proposition been Voted Down?

Advocates of the proposal have championed its economic benefits at length, while revealing how subsequent tax levies can generate revenues that may subsequently be reinvested into the local economy. Additionally, project leaders also confirmed that there could be room for a hotel and convention centre on the site, which would drive far higher revenues and potentially draw visitors from across the globe.

However, South Dakota’s state laws currently prohibit interested parties from developing gaming and casino outlets without first having their plans approved by local residents. This is why an initial amendment was required to the states’ constitution, and arguably one of the seminal reasons why the proposal failed to pass the local senate.

After all, a number of local tribes have already opposed the plans, lobbying local officials and senators in a bid to prevent the proposal from being passed. These efforts would appear to have proved successful, with complainants arguing that the development of a large gaming and entertainment facility would damage their existing businesses and tribal casino outlets.

The nature and the level of this opposition makes it unlikely that such a proposal would ever pass muster, even if it was revisited in the future. The fact remains that local lawmakers will loathe to change the constitution or go against the wishes of community-based tribes in the region, regardless of the potential economic and financial benefits.

The Last Word

This is typical of the issues facing offline and online gambling in the U.S., where long-standing constitutions and complex politics (along with religious and moral concerns) continue to underpin the widespread opposition of new laws.

Attitudes may well change over time, of course, while sustained economic decline in certain regions may make state authorities more receptive to the revenues created by off and online gaming. Project leaders may well need to bide their time in states such as South Dakota, while also building an incontrovertible economic case for building casinos and legalising gambling activity.