Amendment Q will allow the addition of roulette, keno and craps to gaming in Deadwood. 

DEADWOOD | South Dakota voters are being asked Tuesday to allow this Northern Hills tourist town and by extension, tribal casinos in the state, to add roulette, craps and keno to the stable of games offered to would-be bettors.

Proponents say Constitutional Amendment Q would help Deadwood remain competitive with other gaming destinations throughout the United States. They argue it will up the ante, attract new gamers and satisfy the desires of experienced gamblers who frequently ask for the games.

Meanwhile, opponents contend an expansion of gaming would carry with it untold social and economic costs that do not justify the expected increase in tax revenues generated by the trio of games.

“Deadwood needs to compete in the global market, but also with the other jurisdictions that have these games,” said Mike Rodman, executive director of the Deadwood Gaming Association, which succeeded in getting the measure on Tuesday’s ballot. “Our customers have increasingly asked for these games. Deadwood gaming has been here for 25 years and it's going to stay. Given that, we need to make it competitive.”

Rodman pointed to Iowa, Colorado, Wyoming, Wisconsin and more than a half-dozen other gaming venues in the U.S. that currently offer roulette, craps and keno, a fact he said places Deadwood at a competitive disadvantage.

“Roulette, craps and keno are part of what is expected in most gaming jurisdictions anymore,” he remarked.  

Opponents of the measure are adamant that South Dakota would suffer if Amendment Q is passed, arguing that the industry simply wanted to lure more bettors to the gaming tables and create another generation of problem gamblers.

“Amendment Q is not a safe bet for South Dakota,” said Dale Bartscher, executive director of the Family Heritage Alliance Action, a group formed in 2010, and affiliated with five other conservative nonprofits, including the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council.

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“It is not free money. On the surface, gambling expansion may appear to provide income to the state, but the overall cost of state-sponsored welfare programs, regulatory costs and redirecting funds away from taxable commerce offsets the perceived financial benefits.”

Bartscher, who spoke against expanded gambling at the last session of the state Legislature, pointed to a study by the National Council on Problem Gambling that found there are 18,000 addicted gamblers in South Dakota. Furthermore, he said adding roulette, craps and keno is just the most recent in a string of measures brought by the gaming industry to create more gambling addicts.

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“It’s an unpleasant thing to say, but honesty demands it. The success of the gaming industry depends on the addictiveness of the game. Addicts equal revenue,” Bartscher said. “All three of these games are designed to lure young gamblers to the table. This is addiction by design and we can do something about it by voting no on Q.”

While declining to reveal how much money the DGA is spending to bring its pro-Q campaign to voters, Rodman said his organization’s efforts were “low-key,” and included news releases, presentations to South Dakota political groups and a “last-minute push” that would add radio and newspaper advertising, billboards, social media and buttons to the mix.

Faced with contradictory polls in recent weeks over how South Dakotans would vote on the measure, Bartscher said his organization was relying on its website, bloggers and media interviews to oppose the measure.

Meanwhile, the man whose state agency is charged with oversight of all gambling in South Dakota said last week his primary concern was ensuring that gaming operations remained “squeaky clean.” Larry Eliason, executive secretary of the South Dakota Commission on Gaming, added that Amendment Q would create some challenges for his agency.

“In a nutshell, our job is to enforce gaming statutes and regulations and to collect gaming taxes. That’s what we do,” Eliason said. “Craps and roulette are player-active games and present the potential for cheating that doesn’t exist with slot machines.”

In craps, there is the potential for dice that have been tampered with, while in roulette past-posting (placing a bet after the outcome is known) and capping a bet (adding to the bet after the outcome is known) are concerns if Amendment Q passes on Tuesday, Eliason said. But, he noted, surveillance systems in casinos, and training and diligence by casino employees, “would be your first line of defense against both of those.”

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