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South Dakota House Won't Let Voters Decide Gambling Issue

By Lance Burkhart on February 26, 2009  Email it!    Print Version

Play Slots at Rushmore Casino! PIERRE, SOUTH DAKOTA -- Members of the House State Affairs Committee in the South Dakota legislature refused to place a measure to remove gambling limits on the ballot Wednesday. The lawmakers voted ten to three against a proposal to let residents decide about a constitutional amendment that would allow unlimited gambling in the state.

The bill found passage problematic after its author, Senator Scott Heidepriem, came under criticism for an undisclosed conflict of interest regarding the gaming measure. Heidepriem's law firm was revealed to be involved in representing a Sioux tribe against the South Dakota Gaming Commission.

The suit is over limits on the number of slots allowable at the Sioux casino, currently capped at 250. Federal law allows tribal casinos the full enjoyment of any gambling privileges extended anywhere else within the state.

If state limits on casino slot expansion were removed, the lawsuit would be moot, as the tribal limits would no longer be imposed. Heidepriem denied knowledge of any gaming legal work underway at his firm, a small operation of eight lawyers.

The end result for South Dakota is that voters will not get a chance to decide for themselves whether they wish gambling limits to continue. By hiding his conflict of interest, Heidepriem may have done more damage than good, both to the people of South Dakota in general, and Native Americans in his state specifically.

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