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Ron Sasso

Recently, the South Dakota Gaming Commission approved a two-year, $1.8 million marketing contract. Normally this wouldn’t be news but commissioners questioned some specifics of the contract. How it played out is somewhat entertaining.

First, Norm Lingle, the executive director of the South Dakota Lottery, informed commissioners about the contract and if approved that it starts July 1. He explained how the selection process worked and how it was whittled down to one marketing group, Lawrence and Schiller.

Lingle said he “would be happy to answer any questions the commission may have.” The problem is that he didn’t have the answer to the biggest question: How much of the $900,000 a year is going to the firm for their marketing services?

Almost lost in the discussion is that Lawrence and Schiller could ask for additional funds on top of the contract for marketing projects.

One commissioner noted that it would have been good to have the information prior to making a decision on it. However, that was irrelevant because a vote was taken and the commission approved the contract on a 4-2 vote.

Another interesting piece of the discussion is that the funding comes from one budget line — instant lottery tickets. One commissioner asked if it would make sense to make changes so that the marketing can also be used for the video lottery, which is where most of the state’s gaming revenue comes from. The instant tickets accounted for only $5.3 million last year, making $900,000 seem excessive.

If the people voting on the contract don’t have the details you can be sure that citizens won’t have the details. Though South Dakota has made some improvements in transparency, obviously there’s still a long way to go.

Turning to the local scene and in case you aren’t aware, there is a runoff election coming for Rapid City’s Ward 3. Voters there will choose between incumbent Jerry Wright and challenger Mike Sanborn.

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Sanborn has attempted to expose that Wright is not fiscally conservative. That’s a pretty accurate assessment. Wright has recently suggested taxing people based on the amount of road frontage for their property to fund road repairs.

Of course, Sanborn doesn’t have a track record of votes yet to prove himself either way. Wright has worked hard while on the council and serves as the council president.

Unfortunately, Wright also has a long history with the city that includes time supervising the landfill during many years of corruption and lost revenue for the landfill.

Conversely, Sanborn has worked outside of city government, which is a good thing. He seems well-versed on city issues, so he will not be starting from scratch. I give the edge to Sanborn and hope that he will keep his “common-sense” campaign promises.

The runoff election will be held on Tuesday, June 23. If you live in Ward 3, which covers the southwest side of town, make sure you get out and vote.

Ron Sasso is a freelance columnist who lives in Rapid City. He can be reached by emailing

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