The South Dakota Senate voted down on Thursday a resolution that would have put proposed expansion of the state’s casino industry on the November ballot, local media reported. State Senators voted 23-12 against the measure.
Generally speaking, Senate Joint Resolution 9 called for the introduction of a constitutional amendment that would allow for the construction of a casino gaming venue in Yankton. People behind the so-called Port Yankton Project have previously said that a casino facility could revive an economically dormant town and could bring additional revenue to the state. They have also pointed out that a casino could attract more investors for the construction of a hotel and a convention facility as part of the scheme.
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On Wednesday, SJR 9 was sent to the full Senate floor by the Senate Local Government Committee without recommendation. That meant that Senators had to vote on whether to discuss the resolution or not. Lawmakers voted 18-17 on Thursday to debate the casino expansion proposal.
However, the measure did not gain enough support in the chamber to be referred to the House of Representatives. Local media reports that the proposal still has a chance to make it to the November ballot, as Senators could bring it up for discussion later today.
Heavy Tribal Opposition
According to state laws, interested parties cannot develop a casino without the project being approved by residents and without the implementation of a constitutional amendment that would allow for expansion of South Dakota’s gambling industry beyond what has already been regulated.
The Port Yankton Project has been staunchly opposed by several tribes that operate casinos in the Yankton area. According to them, a non-tribal casino would hurt their business and would cannibalize revenue that supports tribal households.
It was reported that the South Dakota government has held talks with local tribes on several occasions, but no results have been produced so far. It also emerged that officials for two of the tribes have expressed interest in taking part in the Port Yankton Project. However, tribes are not allowed to operate gambling on non-reservation land.
In addition, the new casino project calls for a gaming license to be issued to a non-profit organization but tribes are for-profit entities.
It was understood that Yankton Sioux and Santee Sioux were the two tribes with interest in the new casino project. Both tribes operate casinos on reservation land. Tribal officials have previously clarified that under federal law tribes can operate casinos on trust land.
Officials from the city of Deadwood also joined the debate over the potential construction of a casino in Yankton. In the late 1980s, the city gathered enough signatures to put its own casino measure on the ballot. The addition of a gaming venue was then approved by state voters.
Gaming officials from Deadwood recommended that Yankton approach the matter in a similar manner, that is through signature collection.