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Lottery Commission More Worried About Regulation than Robbery

I guess for video lottery operators, the only thing worse than getting robbed is getting regulated.

The South Dakota Lottery Commission met last Thursday to discuss, among other things, a proposed study of security at video lottery establishments and validation centers. The commission requested proposals for the security study from contractors this spring; Lottery officials appear to have tapped New Jersey-based Gaming Laboratories International to conduct an $80,000 study of security at 50 out of our 1,331 video lottery establishments. There were 19 heists at video lottery establishments in 2015; quick Googling finds robberies this year at Uncle Sam’s Casino in Rapid City, Crown Casino in Sioux Falls, Happy Jacks in Sioux Falls, Connexions II in Sioux Falls, Fireside in Sioux Falls, and Deuces in Sioux Falls.

But hold your horses, said the Lottery Commission Thursday. Even though our lottery security director Robyn Seibel says this study would be “ground-breaking,” chairman and impending legislator Chuck Turbiville said he thinks a study would be a waste of time and money:

Turbiville said he was at the Rapid City police meeting about the robberies there. He said he isn’t sure what the study would deter.

“I personally think a lot of these robberies are the result of drug addiction,” Turbiville said.

He explained his hesitancy. “Here again, does one size fit all?” he said. “I don’t know what to expect.”

Turbiville asked Lingle and deputy director Clark Hepper if the staff could bring general recommendations instead [Bob Mercer, “Despite Rash of Casino Robberies, State Hesitant to Order Security Study for Video Lottery Spots,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.08.08].

Maybe Mercer underquotes Turbiville, but I get the impression the lottery chairman doesn’t quite grasp the topic. Maybe lots of casino robbers are on drugs. Maybe thieves will always be with us. Studying security and implementing safety measures may not stop idiots from trying to knock over a casino, but those measures could keep casino money and casino workers safer. And maybe Turbiville isn’t thinking about the words coming out of his mouth, but a detailed field study of 50 different video lottery establishments is less likely to produce one-size-fits-all recommendations than lottery staff offering “general recommendations”… which by definition means, “not tailored to specific situations.”

Also balking at figuring out how we might make video lottery casinos safer, Commissioner Bob Hartford sounds the anti-regulatory alarm:

Hartford said he agreed with some of Turbiville’s concerns. He recalled meeting with legislators in some districts last winter and concluded some business people might stop offering video lottery if there are too many regulations.

“There are huge differences between a Crown Casino in Sioux Falls and the gas station in Blunt,” Hartford said. He questioned how the 50-establishment sample would be chosen. “What happens in Ipswich and Blunt? That’s my concern,” Hartford said [Mercer, 2016.08.08].

An interesting point about regulation lies in Hartford’s comment. Yes, regulations cost businesses money. Certain regulations can be so costly that they make it impossible for some businesses to turn a profit. But if a business cannot afford to take certain basic measures to protect its employees and its money (part of which is public money), should that business be involved in that activity at all?

But Hartford’s concern seems overwrought. According to Mercer, Gaming Laboratories International has consulted for South Dakota Lottery since it began in the 1980s. GLI likely understands the big-town/small-town differences of video lottery establishments and knows its study should pay attention to those differences. Hartford just sounds like he’s been too busy imbibing anti-regulation slogans from the GOP and not paying attention to the security needs of the gambling establishments he oversees.

This isn’t the first time Hartford has show less concern than one might expect about the Lottery’s money draining away insecurely. He was among the commissioners who was willing to throw more money toward the state’s favored ad agency, Lawrence & Schiller, without looking at the new advertising contract.

Lottery commissioners will discuss the security study again at their September meeting.


  1. Roger Cornelius 2016-08-08 17:44

    It would probably be a good idea, although not likely, for the Lottery Commission sit down with casino owners and listen to their safety concerns.
    They wouldn’t have to form a commission or pay for a study to accomplish that.

  2. Jerry Sweeney 2016-08-08 17:53

    I shall warrant, a certain faction of the SD GOP exists for the sole purpose of opposing the regulation of anything that doesn’t involve ‘lady parts’ and bathrooms.

  3. grudznick 2016-08-08 18:12

    I also think these casino places should have to pay the government the full portion of 50% of the take from the voluntary tax on stupid people. It is not the government’s fault if you run a little bar casino that has a flimsy door or you don’t have good security. If bad men are sticking up the bartender for beer money, that’s the casino’s problem not the lottery’s problem. If bad men are burgling the video lottery profits in the dead of the night then the casino still owes the government their full cut. The burgled money all comes out of the operators pocket.

  4. grudznick 2016-08-08 18:13

    Else, I should have included, an unscrupulous casino bar owner might be tempted to burgle his own money and increase his share, robbing from the taxpayers of the great state of South Dakota.

  5. El Rayo X 2016-08-08 20:36

    The preponderance of casino robberies occur in Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Wouldn’t a local city ordinance in the problem areas better serve the industry? Low population areas don’t have the traffic and dollar volume to justify added expenses.

  6. Dana P 2016-08-08 22:46

    But it sounds like Chuck did his own study already…’s because of drug addiction!! Well, there is probably some truth to that in a few of the robberies, no question. Just maybe, Chuck, the wet the finger and hold it up in the air isn’t really a scientific study, but what do I know. This is Deadwood. Their employees may be sitting ducks and could get hurt during a robbery, but no, we don’t need to look any further into that. What?

    Jeez, what are they really afraid of? Just “looking into it” doesn’t automatically attach additional regulations. Hmm, if a study called for additional cameras and/or security, I wonder if those said cameras might catch some, um, problems in the casinos. And I’m not referring to the robberies!

    Well, Chuck wants to have his hand in everywhere. Deadwood mayor, running for state house, lottery commission chairman. I think Chuck doesn’t like rules at all. I’m old enough to remember that back in May, he just happened to skirt around open meetings laws. Same ole stuff, isn’t it?

  7. Douglas Wiken 2016-08-09 11:54

    Based on the crappy quality of images and video shown on TV news and captured by security cameras on businesses robbed, it appears that greatly improving quality of surveillance cameras should be a requirement for a business license of any kind. Cops and public would not be looking for a “red vehicle” with no known license plate numbers and a ghostly shadow of an image barely knowing if the robber is white, red, black, yellow or male or female, 25 or 75 years old.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-09 21:17

    Dana, I don’t think Chuck understands the term “study.”

    Douglas, that’s an interesting point about surveillance video. Cell phones take better pictures than that. Storage should be trivial. Is there some reason we don’t see better-resolution surveillance video?

  9. Douglas Wiken 2016-08-09 21:47

    I don’t know why. The higher resolution cameras are somewhat higher priced than lower resolution. I suspect too that older systems might be analog rather than digital. The remaining guess is that owners are just saving a little money without realizing that adds unnecessary risk for their employees…or not caring.

  10. Dana P 2016-08-10 08:13

    Yes Cory, I agree! (smile)

  11. Jon H 2016-08-10 15:50

    They don’t want security in their casinos!!! They do not care about the employees that work in their establishments!!! They do not care about the folks that come to their establishments and put money into their machines that will take most of what they put in. They do not want to to pay for good security partially because they don’t want to spend the extra money—But— The main reason these casinos have third world security is so there is no record of what the owners do. You see in South Dakota it is not enough that the citizens have voted to give people in the state businesses that automatically will show a 30% profit. The corruption and skimming that take place in this state is ridiculous. We desperately need new oversight in both our lottery commissions and our gaming commission.

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