PIERRE – The chairman of the Legislature’s rules review committee said Tuesday there could be court or legislative action in the months ahead regarding the electronic roulette devices the state Commission on Gaming is allowing in Deadwood gambling halls.
Slot machines, poker and blackjack are legal in Deadwood. Roulette is not. Two of the eight-player roulette games are now in the Cadillac Jack’s and Franklin Hotel casinos.
The legislative committee doesn’t have any specific authority in state law to block or overrule the declaratory ruling made by the gaming commission in June that the roulette games are slot machines.
Wrapping up an hour-long briefing, Rep. Roger Hunt suggested other members of the committee “give it some thought” and discuss the matter again a future meeting.
“I’m not sure there’s any particular action we need to take,” Hunt, R-Brandon, said.
The declaratory ruling was placed on the agenda as a discussion item Tuesday because “a number” of committee members had questions, he said. The gaming commission’s executive secretary, Larry Eliason, told the legislators that the roulette device also raised questions among the commission staff and some of the commissioners.
Eliason said testimony at the June hearing showed the device meets South Dakota’s legal definitions and requirements for slot machines. He said it’s not a live roulette game because there’s no dealer who runs the roulette wheel and ball, and players don’t buy chips to use for betting.
“It’s a theme. Every slot machine in Deadwood, every slot machine in Las Vegas, has a theme,” Eliason said.
“A court of law could still make its own decision,” Hunt said.
Roulette wasn’t allowed “for a reason” when the state constitution was amended to allow slot machines and card games in Deadwood, Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, said. “Does this game violate that concept?” he asked.
Eliason returned to his point that the device is not a roulette table. “Based on the scientific testimony, I think it’s a slot machine. It’s a roulettethemed slot machine,” Eliason said.
“I understand the technicality,” replied Lust, “and this game may technically comply with the definition of slot machine. My concern is who’s looking out for the spirit of the statutes and the constitutional amendment.”
Eliason said that given the evidence and testimony, he didn’t think the commission could have ruled that the roulette device wasn’t a slot machine.
“If the petitioners had appealed that decision to circuit court, in my opinion we wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on,” he said.