The South Dakota Lottery Commission has a problem.
Its members, all appointed by the governor, lack the authority to make relatively minor changes while managing the state’s interests in an industry that moves much faster than the speed of state government.
As more competition emerges statewide and nationwide in the high-stakes gambling industry, Lottery Commission members recently adopted a 20-point plan to bolster the video lottery industry.
The proposals include raising the top prize from $1,000 to $2,500 and the bet limit from $2 to $5, allowing businesses to have 15 machines per license rather than the current ten, and allowing multiple licenses in a single room.
These modest proposals, however, can’t be implemented without the approval of the state legislature and the signature of Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
As such, Lottery Director Norm Lingle has scheduled a meeting with the governor with the hope that lawmakers can consider the changes in the next legislative session, which begins on Jan. 14.
As part of that discussion, the commission will be asking for more authority to implement decisions, a position that seems reasonable for important reasons.
The Lottery Commission is closer to the industry than part-time lawmakers and thus in a better position to make decisions to help those small businesses that pumped $87.8 million into state coffers in 2012.
Secondly, state lawmakers will only be meeting for 37 days in 2014. They should be discussing more pressing issues like the budget, education priorities, economic development and Medicaid expansion. There is no doubt they will be considering hundreds of bills.
While it is important the Legislature maintain oversight of the Lottery Commission and establish what percentage of income the state should get from video lottery proceeds, it does not need to micromanage the affairs of the commission.
Lawmakers should set policy, debate legislation, provide oversight and empower commissioners to implement minor rule changes in a timely manner.