Insane Rhetoric Sustains Opposition to Sports Betting in South Dakota

Sports displaying on a screen. Shannon Finney/Getty Images for MGM National Harbor/AFP

The legalization of sports betting is making progress. But you won’t believe the craziness of its opponents.

It’s interesting to see why people support it even though the reasons for supporting this growth are already obvious to bettors. But I think it’s also a good idea to capture the other side. In the case of South Dakota, opposition to sports betting, unfortunately, remains stark.

South Dakota’s Situation 

In 2020, South Dakota voters were able to speak their minds by approving sports betting in Deadwood.
Deadwood, in case you didn’t know, is a small town in South Dakota with a lot of history. For example, famous cowboy Wild Bill Hickok died there.

Today, it is small. Not many more than 1,000 people reside there. This city is known for its multiple casinos. At the end of 2020, when South Dakota voters legalized sports betting in Deadwood, they effectively permitted the casinos in this city to offer sports betting.

In order to wager on sports, people must be on the premises of one of these Deadwood casinos.
This is decent for people who live near or in Deadwood. But Deadwood is far from a lot of South Dakota residents. Sioux Falls, for example, is about a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Deadwood.

That is a long time to sit in a car in order to place bets. Clearly, this restriction — that a South Dakotan must be in a Deadwood casino in order to wager on sports — may severely limit the ability of South Dakotans to wager on sports.

Trying Hard

There are determined supporters who want South Dakota to have legal online sports betting. Next door to South Dakota, Wyoming allows mobile sports betting. Despite having 580,000 residents — about 300,000 fewer than South Dakota — close to $12.3 million was wagered online through Wyoming sportsbooks.

With many more people, South Dakota sportsbooks could see millions more dollars wagered per month online. These millions would go a long way towards benefitting the state. For example, many tens of thousands of dollars would be raised for state taxes.

Supporters cite the fact that South Dakotans are already placing bets. They are doing this online or in one of the neighboring states that allow online sports betting. In a similar vein, voters likely don’t even realize that they can’t legally place bets online because they see advertisements for top sportsbooks like FanDuel.

So, opposition to sports betting in the state is really pointless as it isn’t stopping gambling from happening. It’s just creating an unnecessary and deleterious inconvenience and it’s creating a false stigma as if betting on sports were a bad thing.

Sadly, the proposal to make online sports betting legal in the state was voted down. One opponent to the proposal said that it does not matter if South Dakotans are already betting on sports. He asked: since they are already stealing and murdering, should theft and murder also be legalized?

Equating sports betting with theft and murder is undeniably insane. This is the type of crazy rhetoric that supporters of sports betting are dealing with in South Dakota.