South Dakota lawmakers are looking to beat Iowa to the punch over proposal for a casino just across the border in Lyon County, Iowa. South Dakota State Senator Gene Abdallah is a Republican from Sioux Falls who is leading and effort to change the South Dakota State Constitution to allow a major casino in the Sioux Falls area.

“It’s my responsibility to protect the economy of Sioux Falls. In that greater Sioux Falls area, there’s approximately 1.2 million people that would be going nine miles across the line, and spending their money over there. The people in South Dakota would suffer the ill effects and the social effects of all that. I mean it’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned,” Abdallah says.

Iowa investor Dan Kehl have proposed a $90-million casino for Lyon County if the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission eventually agrees to more gambling licenses. The plan anticipates pulling gamblers in from Sioux Falls, and Abdallah says he wants the money to stay put.

“I want Sioux Falls to make a buck on Sioux Falls. I don’t care about Iowa making a buck on Sioux Falls…you’ve got legislators in Iowa that have been elected to look out for the interests of Iowa,” Abdallah says, “I’m a legislator from South Dakota, and I’m here to represent the people of South Dakota and look out for their interests.”

Abdallah says if Sioux Falls is going to be impacted, the money should stay in the community. Abdallah says: “Well either way we’re going to get the social ills. Whether it’s in Iowa or it’s in Sioux Falls, we’re going to get the social ills, not to mention the traffic going back and forth, the drinking and driving, and whatever else comes with it, I mean, there’s no way of getting away from the social ills, but if South Dakota is going to pay the social ills, then we should derive the profits.”

Abdallah says if a real casino is built nine miles away, there’s no question that Sioux Falls’ video lottery business will suffer. Abdallah also says that according to an expert that testified before their committee, there is room in the market for both an Iowa and a Sioux Falls casino.

Abdallah and Democrat Scott Heidepriem of Sioux Falls have proposed the legislation in South Dakota, that if approved would go to a statewide vote. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission won’t have their study assessing the state of the gambling industry until this summer, and then it could take six more months before the commission acts on awarding any new gambling licenses.