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South Dakota Passes English-Only Rule At Deadwood Poker Tables To Prevent Possible Cheating

Committee Also Bans Texting And Voice Calls, But Allows Music


In what could be a lawsuit waiting to happen, South Dakota state officials passed a new rule on Tuesday that prohibits speaking any language other than English at Deadwood casino poker tables to minimize potential cheating.

The South Dakota Legislature’s rules review committee also banned texting and voice calls at card tables under the new rules, referred to it as a “games protection” package.

According to, the state Gaming Commission received complaints last fall regarding possible cheating. Mike Shaw, the commission’s attorney, reasoned that the new rules are legal to enact because gaming is a “suspect activity.”

“It’s not subject to the same protection that other activities are,” he added.

Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, claimed the linguistic issue is the “same with any language; you could manipulate the game,” and said it would be unfair, for example, if two players spoke Lakota at the table and the others didn’t.

Following the meeting, Larry Eliason, the commission’s executive secretary, said the “English-only” rule is not an endeavor to establish an official language, but rather an attempt to prevent collusion among poker players. “It is the same reason that we prohibited texting and other forms of communication that other players can’t understand or hear or see,” Eliason said.

The changes in South Dakota are based on rules in Nevada and New Jersey that Eliason said “have been on the books for a long time.”

While players are now banned from using electronic devices to communicate with others while at the poker table, they can still use their devices to listen to music, broadcasts and other recordings. “Some players like to listen to music and use earphones to blot out the distraction,” Eliason said. “But it would prohibit texting or telephoning while at the table.”

No details were given on exactly how the casino will seek to distinguish players simply listening to music from those who are texting.

At the commission’s June 11 hearing on the electronic devices rule, two of its five members were absent. Therefore, the three remaining commissioners were required to agree in order to pass a rule change. While two of the three commissioners supported a complete ban on electronic devices, casinos lawyer Roger Tellinghuisen asked that players be permitted to listen to music.

His efforts ultimately worked due to the lack of commissioners at the meeting.

Tags: South Dakota


almost 7 years ago

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