Home > SD 2014 Ballot, South Dakota > SD 2014 Ballot: My thoughts on Constitutional Amendment Q

SD 2014 Ballot: My thoughts on Constitutional Amendment Q

October 27, 2014

roulette-wheelThere is one Constitutional Amendment for the voters of South Dakota to decide upon on the 2014 ballot. Constitution Amendment Q was passed in the Legislature as House Joint Resolution 1001. The Amendment text as passed by the legislature and passed on to the voters can be read here (or see this version to see what actually changes in the Constitution). Basically the Constitutional Amendment would allow more forms of gambling in Deadwood. Specifically it would allow roulette, keno, and craps. It also took away the ability of the citizens in Deadwood to choose what forms of gambling are legalized.

It should be noted that this amendment will not actually legalize roulette, keno, and craps in Deadwood. Rather it would allow the SD Legislature to legalize roulette, keno, and craps in Deadwood. Currently the net proceeds from card games and slot machines in Deadwood is “devoted to the Historic Restoration and Preservation of Deadwood”. The same would be true for roulette, keno, and craps; provided this amendment passes and the SD Legislature creates a law.

The SD Attorney General is required to create explanations of all ballot questions. Here is the explanation put forth the by Attorney General’s office:

An Amendment to the South Dakota Constitution authorizing the Legislature to allow roulette, keno and craps in Deadwood.
The constitution currently authorizes the Legislature to allow two kinds of games of chance in Deadwood: limited card games and slot machines. The proposed amendment authorizes the Legislature to also allow roulette, keno and craps in Deadwood.
Under federal law, any games of chance authorized by the Legislature to be offered in Deadwood would also be allowed at on-reservation tribal casinos.

A vote “Yes” is for changing the constitution to allow the Legislature to authorize roulette, keno and craps in Deadwood.

A vote “No” will leave the constitution as it is.

I didn’t realize constitutional change would also open the extra games of chance on the reservations until this Resolution was brought up in the Legislature. That is worth considering when deciding how to vote on this question. Economic development on the reservations is a big issue right now. It is worth considering if this can be used as part of a way for the reservations to help themselves.

Personally I wish this Amendment were different. I think it is bad policy to be so specific about what gambling is or isn’t allowed in the SD Constitution. If gambling has to be included in the SD Constitution it would be best done at a very high level allowing the Legislature to legalize or make illegal whatever gambling is passed in legislation; or better yet, keep gambling out of State business and let the free market determine the best types and levels of gambling that should exist within South Dakota.

But this Amendment is about modifying the way gambling is currently done in SD. In researching the CON side of this amendment I’ve seen it framed as a local control issue. Technically the Amendment does take local control away from Deadwood, because previously any gambling changes in Deadwood required 60% of the local voters to approve. With this  change the legislature can make change without any input from locals in Deadwood. That argument would have more weight if wasn’t followed up by beliefs from opponents that gambling in Deadwood must be stopped because it will cause more social ills. That is where the free market argument from opponents have fallen apart. It appears that the majority of sources fighting against Amendment Q are not fighting just against expanding gambling, but they wish to remove gambling from SD altogether. Using government power to get rid of a social ill that a particular group doesn’t like is not a free market principle. Rather it is a method used by big government proponents to shape society at the cost of freedoms.

On the Proponent side I have seen this amendment proposed as a way to keep up with gambling competition in neighboring states. The gaming industry supports tourism and reservations programs. In addition the State of South Dakota gets millions of dollars to use on programs such as education. But I think there is a better reason for supporters of free markets to support this amendment. Amendment Q will not create a true free market in South Dakota, or Deadwood and the reservations, for gambling; but Amendment Q will bring gambling closer to a free market in Deadwood and the reservations. It is unlikely a true free market in gambling (or any product/service for that matter) will appear any time soon. So in this case it would be a good to at least get a little closer to a free market in one overly regulated industry. If this amendment does pass I expect the Legislature will pass a law allowing the games in 2015; and I will applaud it because they are at least loosening some restrictions upon the market.

As of right now I plan to vote yes for this amendment. It isn’t the amendment I would have written. But at least it reduced some of the burden in one industry. Personally I don’t particularly like gambling, but just because I don’t like an industry doesn’t mean that it should be over-regulated or outright banned. If gambling was truly unwanted in SD there wouldn’t be any customers to fill the casinos…

  1. Rep. Stace Nelson
    October 31, 2014 at 10:54 am

    I am NOT a fan of gambling; however, I am for adults having the decision whether they want to gamble. My problem with gambling in SD is that the state gets a cut of the $$ taken from gamblers. Expanding gambling in SD effectively expands a tax. Just like our nation as a whole, we don’t have a revenue problem, we have as problem on the priority of what we spend tax-payer $$ on. More money for the state does NOT mean that it will be spent on education or our infrastructure.

  1. February 3, 2015 at 11:29 pm
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