Creative Solution for Tourism and Veterans

Friday, February 08, 2019

Main News Photo

By Nancy Wenande, CEO

Every community that relies on tourism understands just how the ups and downs of the off-season impact the flow of business.

Yankton has been working through the decades to find creative solutions to bring people to the community, not just in the beautiful summer months but also year-round.

Port Yankton is a project that will not only support these regional efforts, but also create a revenue source that will have a statewide impact.

Senate Joint Resolution 5 (SJR 5) is making its way through the Legislature right now. If approved, it would allow South Dakotans to decide whether to grant one gaming license to a non-profit entity in Yankton. This resolution is proposing that a large portion of the gaming tax revenue be allocated to support state veterans programs, with a much smaller portion devoted to the southeast region to support historic preservation, economic development and tourism.

Keep in mind, the Legislature is not being asked to approve the gaming license, but rather to allow the voters to express their views in the November 2020 general election.

Port Yankton will be different than Deadwood and other casinos in South Dakota. Yankton is asking for a single gaming license for a local non-profit entity that would then allow a private business to develop and operate the proposed, state-of-the-art Port Yankton entertainment complex. This is NOT a taxpayer-funded venture.

Studies show that South Dakotans want more options for entertainment. One such study indicated that people in their 20s and 30s are more likely than older generations to find gaming appealing in their vacation planning. In fact, 43 percent of travelers in this age group have visited a casino while on vacation in the last 12 months. Gaming is just one aspect of what travelers are seeking when planning a vacation. Many of the tourists in their 20s and 30s are also more likely to look for a variety of activities when planning a vacation.

As anyone who works in tourism can attest, travelers in their 20s and 30s are a highly sought-after demographic. They travel more and look for new and unique experiences and locations.

This is what makes Port Yankton an attractive project — and Yankton an enticing destination.

Port Yankton is more than a proposal for a casino. What we’re proposing is a state-of-the-art entertainment complex with restaurants, a 75-room hotel, retail opportunities, convention and event space, and venues for indoor and outdoor concerts. The gaming component will be slightly smaller than casinos in neighboring states.

Yankton’s position along Lewis & Clark Lake and our access to state parks, camping and unique outdoor and cultural experiences sets up Port Yankton nicely to capitalize on existing tourism opportunities in the region.

Because of the proximity of casinos in Iowa and Nebraska, the southeastern portion of our state is losing out on valuable tourism dollars. A new entertainment complex like Port Yankton would give South Dakota businesses an opportunity to capture some of this tourism and gaming revenue, instead of it going to Iowa and Nebraska.

The backers of the proposed amendment are South Dakotans. We’re not an out-of-state entity looking to put something on our ballot that South Dakotans don’t value. We’re your friends, neighbors and family. The Legislature has a duty to allow South Dakotans to vote on this important project that will support tourism, veterans and development.

While the resolution is gaining traction and is well received in Pierre, it’s important that we make our voices heard. Call or email your legislators and attend your local cracker barrels or legislative coffees and ask them to support the Port Yankton resolution. Let them know you want to see more tourism in southeast South Dakota, which helps the entire state, not just Yankton. Let them know you support South Dakota’s veterans. Let them know you want to see more opportunities for economic development. Let them know you want them to vote “yes” on SJR 5 and put this decision in the hands of the South Dakota voters.

Category: Quality of Life