Nebraska Shows Opposition to Slots Machine Gambling

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
February 28, 2009

                 If Congress decides to allow individual States to make the decision to allow or disallow online casino gambling, Nebraska certainly would not be first to jump on the bandwagon. A recent proposal in Nebraska that enabled citizens to vote on whether or not to allow slot machine gambling in the Nebraska Thoroughbred racetracks failed to pass the first round of voting and is likely to die before 2010.

                “They don’t want gambling, I guess,” said State Senator, Russ Karpisek of Wilber in reference to the state’s General Affairs Committee. According to the Omaha World-Herald, the proposal was introduced before the Committee, which failed at a 3-4 vote to advance to further consideration. Out of the eight members on the Committee, a mere five votes are required to move a proposal to the full legislative body.

                Karpisek is chairmen of the General Affairs Committee. He told press that Nebraska has lost a good portion of its gambling revenue to bordering states that offer slot machine gambling. A vote to allow casino gambling at the racetrack would have revived the struggling industry, according to Karpisek. He added that some of the revenue would have been allotted to the state’s declining road-building programs. Without the much needed funding to increase the purses, the state’s racetracks are doomed to fail in just two year’s time. President of the racehorse owners and trainers group, Jerry Fudge, placed a greater vote of confidence in the industry, however.

                “I wouldn’t say we’re out of business, but we’ll have to try something else. What that’ll be, I don’t know,” said Fudge.

                The state had intended to replace the racetrack in Lincoln, with a proposed $50 million in funding, and that the existing State Fair Park track would be used as a research facility for the University of Nebraska.

                Senator Cap Dierks voted against the proposal to allow the citizens of Nebraska to vote on slot machine gambling. “The bottom line is that this is taking money from the people who can least afford it,” he said. “It’s an immoral way to treat our citizens.”

                The proposal would have allowed 3,500 slots machines to be built at seven racetracks in Nebraska and a counterpart of the bill would have given a detailed outline of the machines’ regulation. The estimated revenue that would have been generated from the slots machine equals out to $221 million per year. 40 percent of that money would have been put toward building roads and 14 percent would have gone to the struggling racetracks.

                The news comes shortly after officials from Utah called for Congress to uphold the rights of individual states to form their own online casino gambling laws. The immediate refusal of Nebraska to allow slots machines to be built in existing land gambling facilities does not bode well for the future of internet gambling in the state, should Congress allow individual states to decide gambling law. Of all fifty states, Washington is the only existing that outlines any legislation pertaining to internet casino gambling. Hawaii and Utah are the only two states that have completely outlawed any form of gambling, including national lottery tickets.

                Committee advancement was the first obstacle that the proposal had to overcome, which would have been followed by a constitutional amendment, were it not stricken down. State voters have in the past rejected the expansion of gambling in Nebraska in recent years.

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