Bob Mercer notes that gambling is expanding in South Dakota. At the end of August, the South Dakota Lottery will offer a new EZ Match instant-win option: pay an extra buck for your lottery ticket, get a shot at an instant payoff of up to $100.
Higher rollers can go to Flandreau for more gambling. The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe and Governor Dennis Daugaard are agreeing to double the number of slot machines at Royal River Casino in Flandreau from 500 to 1,000.
The tribe and the Governor signed a deal to double the slots at Royal River Casino from 250 to 500 back in 2011. At that time, slot machines cost $20,000 apiece; if that cost holds today, this expansion will cost $5 million. The tribe just secured a $3.6-million loan from Minneapolis-based Dougherty Funding to renovate and expand the casino.
Unlike the current agreement, which simply says the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe “may” contribute some gaming funds to Moody County, the new compact puts a hard financial obligation in writing. If the tribe were to stick with its 500 machines, it would pay Moody County $75,000. That cut increases disproportionately to the number of machines: if the tribe maxes out its slots at 1,000, Moody County gets $350,000. Double the machines, increase the county’s cut by five—if I’m the county, I like that math!
As Legislative candidate, I’m not eager to see more government entities relying on more gambling money to pay for public goods and the increased services necessary to deal with the externalities of gambling, like addiction and bankruptcy. Opposition to increased video lottery is one of four Family Heritage Alliance survey issues on which my District 3 Senate opponent Al Novstrup and I agree. My opposition to gambling does not trump my support for tribal sovereignty—I still wonder how a sovereign tribe has to get permission from the state to expand its business on its territory. And I won’t begrudge any tribe the economic development they can get from separating their white neighbors from their money.
Still, gambling is not the most positive form of economic development. The state is consenting to a form of entertainment that is no more socially healthy than the marijuana lounge that the state has so staunchly resisted.