House defeats two video lottery bills

House defeats two video lottery bills by Susan Smith What may or may not be right for South Dakotans, according to who you talk to, was not right for state legislators.

Members of the state House of Representatives defeated two bills Feb. 16 that would have restricted and repealed video lottery.

HB 1110 would have limited the placement of video lottery machines to businesses with on sale liquor licenses. HB 1200 would have repealed video lottery completely by replacing the $90 million the games generate with a one cent increase in the state sales and use tax.

Legislators have contended throughout debate this session that they did not realize what an impact the lottery would have on state revenue and the welfare of its citizens when it was voted in 10 years ago.

House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Cutler, R-Claremont, said he was in favor of the legalized gaming until he saw the direct results among his friends and constituents. He said the games were not right for South Dakota.

�I had to come by this through experience,� said Cutler of his fight to get the lottery repealed. �I had to come by it by watching people I know become addicted ? people from Aberdeen, Columbia, Claremont, Britton and Groton ? Those folks are legion.�

Lawmakers opposed to the restriction and repeal said regulating the gaming was akin to legislating morality, which they felt was beyond the scope of their powers.

�We�re talking about regulating morality,� Rep. Kay Davis, D-Sioux Falls said. �Are we going to legislate alcohol next?�

Rep. Bill Cerny, D-Burke, who was a legislator along with Cutler when the lottery was voted in, said he was against the legalized gaming then, but was also against the legislation to do away with it. He cited a resolution by Rep. Al Waltman, D-Aberdeen, that would let state voters decide whether the games should go away.

�I�m not going to vote for the bill today because I think we�re going at it the wrong way,� he said. �I think Rep. Waltman�s resolution was a good idea, we should take it to a vote of the people.�

Rep. Roland Chicoine, D-Elk Point, said he wouldn�t vote for the bill to restrict placement of video lottery machines because he felt taking the games out of convenience stores would hurt South Dakota business, especially for border towns that enjoy additional revenue from the games. Chicoine said legislators knew what they would be doing for the state when the games were originally legalized.

�A lot of people like to go in the convenience store to play that wouldn�t be caught going into a bar,� he said. �All we�re doing is pushing them across the river to buy their needed supplies and groceries.�

House Speaker Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, said HB 1110 was a good chance for the state to begin to wean itself off video lottery.

�I�ve heard repeatedly on this floor that we have to wean ourselves away from being dependent on video lottery,� he said. "As our economic situation worsens, it�s going to be harder and harder to find that replacement revenue.�

Rep. Clarence Kooistra, R-Turner, also advocated restricting the lottery if it wasn�t repealed. He campaigned with the promise to do all he could to repeal the games.

�When is it going to end?� he asked. �It ends in the poorhouse, it ends in the jail, it ends in some of these mental health centers.�

Kooistra is in support of a corporate income tax if it means an end of the games.

Other legislators balked at the suggested one cent increase in sales tax required by HB 1200 because they said the people of South Dakota could not stand another sales tax increase.

�If we pass a one cent increase in sales tax that�s not a penny more,� Rep. Gil Koetzle, D-Sioux Falls, said. �It�s a 25 percent increase in taxes. Let�s show how concerned we are about the people of South Dakota, let�s show how much we care.�

HB 1110 failed 33-35, with HB 1200 failing 28-41. Two representatives were excused.

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