A casino under construction in northwest Iowa is becoming a campaign issue in a neighboring state. Scott Heidepriem, a Democratic candidate for governor in South Dakota, says he strongly opposes the casino being built near Larchwood, Iowa, about five miles from the South Dakota border.

“That is just a very clear, transparent ploy to exploit a population base, which is southeastern South Dakota,” Heidepriem says. “You can’t tell me that the casino in Larchwood is being constructed to satisfy the gaming desires of little Larchwood, Iowa. It’s clearly about Sioux Falls and southeastern South Dakota and the net effect is going to be that $60-million go out of South Dakota every year.”

Heidepriem proposes building some type of gaming facility on the South Dakota side of the border. “The better approach is for South Dakota to retain those dollars here,” Heidepriem says. “That means a competing facility within our state lines, which I’m convinced will be superior to the one in Larchwood and we’ll then have those dollars available for things like an events center or tax relief or any number of things.”

It would take a constitutional change to do it though, with a statewide vote required to allow such a casino. Heidepriem says he has to convince voters around the state that this is much more than a Sioux Falls problem.

“I honestly believe the people throughout South Dakota share the concern that our borders need to be protected from economic threats like this,” he says. “Today, it’s Larchwood and Sioux Falls. Tomorrow, it could be any one of them.”

He says the Iowa casino could generate as much as 13-million dollars for the State of Iowa each year.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton