Decision Day in South Dakota

Sports betting continues to expand across the US, and the remote state of South Dakota is the latest to consider setting up its own sports betting sector. 

South Dakota is one of three states that will see a referendum on sports betting at the start of November. Along with voters in Louisiana and Maryland, South Dakota residents will have the chance to approve sports betting through a simple Yes or No vote, although the reality in South Dakota, as in both of those other states, is that the mechanics of setting up sports betting market could turn out to be complicated and time-consuming. 

South Dakota Differences

Although all three states will be asking their voters to consider the principle of introducing sports betting, there are some distinct differences in the question that South Dakota residents will be asked to consider. In South Dakota, the proposition refers to an amendment to the state constitution that would allow the addition of sports betting to the games that are already permitted in the city of Deadwood, where casino gambling is currently permitted.

That doesn’t mean, however, that sports betting would be confined to Deadwood. Under South Dakota state law, any form of gaming that is permitted in Deadwood can be offered at any of the state’s tribal casinos, although there would have to be amendments to tribal compacts. Currently, there are eleven such casinos in the state offering casino gaming. 

Long Way Ahead

As with Louisiana and Maryland, it is likely that South Dakota could take several months, perhaps even until the beginning of the 2021 NFL season, to set up their sports betting sector. This process is not likely to be helped by the apparent disagreements within the South Dakota legislature over the principle of sports betting. The decision to offer a referendum lacked clear support in both chambers of the state legislature, and having failed to get through the House in 2019, was eventually passed by that chamber earlier this year by just a single vote. 

Few Options for Betting Fans

Another difference between South Dakota and the other two states where sports betting is on the ballot is the relative lack of competition. Both Louisiana and Maryland, in particular, are bordered by states where sports betting is up and running, which has put pressure on lawmakers in those states to push ahead with sports betting for fear of missing out on much-needed tax revenue. 

Yet while there are currently few options for South Dakota betting fans to bet on their favorite sports, the picture is changing. It is possible currently for residents in the Sioux Falls area to bet legally on sports by crossing the border into Iowa, and sports betting, albeit in a limited fashion, is coming to both Wyoming and North Dakota. Tribes in both of those states have released plans to begin offering sports betting at their casinos, for which they say they do not need voter or legislator approval. 

The potential of obtaining additional tax revenue through a new industry will certainly appeal to many legislators, and supporters of sports betting are hopeful that it will be given the green light by voters, though there has been little public polling on the issue ahead of the vote itself. 

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