Nebraska Lawmakers Discuss Legalized Casinos

After voters legalized gambling in Nebraska, state lawmakers should move quickly to ensure regulation of the industry in the state.

Nebraska Members of Legislature’s General Affairs Committee Discuss Gambling Regulation

During a public hearing on Monday, which focused on Nebraska’s legalized gambling, members of the Legislature’s General Affairs Committee began discussing under what conditions gambling in the state could launch. One proposal suggested that players should not be allowed to use credit cards, and people who cheat should be charged with misdemeanor. Another proposal suggested that only sports betting should be allowed in casinos. The proposal was opposed by a lawmaker whose district is not yet eligible for a casino.

Opponents, such as Gov. Pete Ricketts, stated that legalizing casinos may increase gambling addiction and crime in the state. However, a counter-proposal suggested that casinos should find a way to help gambling addicts to stay away from casinos of their own volition.

Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln proposed a bill that suggested drawing money from the Lincoln casino’s tax revenue. The money would be used for organizing the Lancaster County Super Fair. She backed up her proposal by stating that the Nebraska State Fair receives funds from the Nebraska Lottery. She is looking to raise money for the Lincoln county fair without using property taxes. Geist also concluded that it was hard to divert money from the general fund. Other counties and cities opposed the idea, stating the revenue could be used for something else.

Sen. Tom Briese, chairman of the General Affairs Committee, who opposes gambling, said that it is the Committee’s responsibility to respect the voters’ will. He also stated that lawmakers should work more expeditiously to set up the rules for casinos. Last year, Briese looked for ways to speed up the process of legalization of gambling in the state through a pair of bills. In the end, Committee members didn’t take any action on the proposed bills.

Nebraska Legalized Casinos Last Year

Last November, Nebraskans welcomed casinos in the state by voting for gambling to become a source of revenue. Before the vote, the state allowed small wagering, pari-mutuel racing, lottery, and bingo. About two-thirds of Nebraska’s residents voted for the legalization of casinos at the state’s six licensed horse-racing tracks. They made gambling a part of the state’s constitution.

Voters were asked three ballot questions to legalize casino gambling, set up a system to regulate it, and require money from the revenue to be used for property tax relief. All three questions had to pass.

During the Committee meeting on Monday, it was agreed that some of the revenue would go to a tax credit for property owners. The ballot campaign was funded by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s company, Ho-Chunk Inc. Its goal is to open casinos at tracks in Omaha, Lincoln, and South Sioux City.

Sen. Justin Wayne, who represents the high-poverty section of northern Omaha, said that his community feels the effects of gambling but it would not draw money from its revenue.

Lance Morgan, the president and CEO of Ho-Chunk, stated that casinos would provide jobs for residents in Omaha and Lincoln. He also said that the industry needs regulations to face issues that couldn’t be laid out in the ballot measure.

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