What are the odds that something could go wrong with this lottery legislation?
Take a look at Capitol reporter Bob Mercer’s column about proposed legislation regarding the state lottery. Then, if you feel as we do about this issue, call or email your lawmakers and tell them: Say no to this dangerous legislation, House Bill 1048.
It would be a bad idea to entrust the South Dakota Lottery Commission with the authority to make decisions that have been wrestled over in our South Dakota Legislature and then rejected. The Legislature is the proper place to make that sort of policy decision about bet limits or the number of machines per establishment, for example. Gambling is an industry that brings negative consequences as well as revenue with it, and no one is better poised than the lawmakers from every corner of this state to weigh the pros and cons in such decisions.
The commission is a quasi-judicial citizen board that has regulatory powers in line with statutes. Under Gov. Daugaard, all state commissions have been required to look at their administrative procedures and make sure they are complying with the intent and spirit of the open meetings law. That’s a good idea; but we perceive this bill as taking a step backward from that. Any discussion of controversial regulations, such as allowing more machines, needs to take place at the legislative level or be open to full public review by the commission in line with legislative and statute authority.
It would be an even worse idea to let the Lottery Commission make the call on when to close its doors to the public. And that is exactly what this bill could do by allowing the commission to go into executive session when “discussing business strategies, marketing strategies, pricing strategies, or financial matters, if public discussion may be harmful to the competitive position of a licensee, an applicant, or the lottery.”
Think about it: What couldn’t be viewed as harmful to the lottery?
We question if it is in the public’s interest to give any agency, department or unit of government any special exemptions or additional authority beyond what is already contained in the open meeting law statutes.
Our board also noted with concern the statement by an official that the intent is to let the Lottery Commission operate more like a business.
The unspoken implication is that a more businesslike model would be more efficient and responsive to market demands and not bind up policy decisions that are best left to the every day managers. That sounds very appealing to a lot of people.
The problem is, video lottery is not a business and should not be run as one. It’s a government-run program to generate revenue using a method that relies on people making decisions that are not in their financial best interests. There are uncomfortable ethical questions about this practice; let’s at least keep the discussions in the open.
Such a program needs full sunlight at every level, especially the decision-making level. Mix potential exploitation, money and secrecy. What could possibly go wrong? A lot.
It’s as though those proposing this legislation are already forgetting EB-5 and GEAR UP, the scandals of the Rounds and Daugaard administrations. The simple fact is, we need to do more business in the public’s eye, not less; especially where money is concerned.
- South Dakota
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