Republican Senator Dan Lederman tried to expand video lottery again, and this time, to their credit, his fellow Senators turned him down.
Two weeks ago, the Senator from Dakota Dunes brought Senate Bill 139 to the Senate floor. Senator Lederman sought to increase the maximum number of video lottery machines that a lottery-licensed bar or restaurant can install from ten to fifteen. Senator Lederman said that 1,400 South Dakota establishments have video lottery licenses, but only 460 of them have ten machines. Statewide there are 8,900 active terminals and another 1,100 licensed but inactive terminals. Senator Lederman said SB 139 would allow businesses to “redeploy” video lottery machines to respond to market demand.
Senator Lederman said SB 139 was not an “expansion” of gaming but an “attempt to regain market share” lost to bordering states’ casinos due to our smoking ban. to smoking ban across the border. Never mind that Senator Lederman represents a district that draws lots of gamblers into South Dakota from neighboring Sioux City and that Lederman’s proposal would allow them to expand their operations.
Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) tried to give Lederman’s “not an expansion” line some reinforcement by amending SB 139 to set a statewide cap on video lottery machines at 14,000. But Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) was not fooled. Senator Hunhoff, the conscience of the Senate, called Senator Lederman’s description of the bill “Orwellian”—”this is clearly an expansion.” Senator Hunhoff admitted that South Dakota is in the business of gambling and that we have an obligation to be good partners with the small businesses who host our gambling machines. But Senator Hunhoff said our obligation to maximize profit is matched by our obligation to act responsibly. He said we already “fall far short” in our efforts to identify and help problem gamblers. He said our advertising goes too far in promoting gambling. Before we allow any video lottery expansion, Senator Hunhoff said we need to study problem gambling and expand our efforts to prevent the social ills that our gambling business causes.
Senator David Omdahl (R-11/Sioux Falls) joined Senator Hunhoff in opposing SB 139. He said simply that he has personal knowledge of the damage gambling does to families. The social ills of gambling make video lottery “a poor way to raise revenues,” said Senator Omdahl.
Senator Lederman admitted gambling has social ills, just like drugs and alcohol, but the $97 million generated by video lottery “buys a lot of good for our state.” He urged his fellow Senators to “give[…] our small businesses a chance to compete.”
The majority did not buy that argument. The Senate voted SB 139 down 13–21. That’s nine ayes fewer than Senator Lederman was able to secure for a similar video-lottery-expansion proposal last year.
The Senate hears a pro-business argument from free-marketeer Dan Lederman, and the Senate turns him down. Hmm… maybe our Legislature is getting better!