Nebraska is looking at an expanded gaming law later this year, with a referendum expected to be placed on the ballots in November. This has been an ongoing battle over the last few years, but it appears that the final decision will be left to the voters.
A political group called “Keep the Money in Nebraska” is leading the charge to get the referendum on the ballot, and they have been busy collecting signatures of registered voters. There are three different ballot initiatives that the group is working on, but all of them pertain to casino gambling.
The first initiative is the most important as it would require a change to the Nebraska state constitution. The other two initiatives deal with the structure of casino gambling, and what laws would be put in place to regulate the new industry.
The group must collect close to 130,000 signatures before the initiatives can appear on the ballot. These signatures must be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office no later than July 2.
Even though the July 2 date is rapidly approaching, “Keep the Money in Nebraska” is on pace to get the required number of signatures. The group believes that a majority of the population favors expanded gambling laws, and they have been receiving plenty of support since their campaign started.
Property Tax Relief a Key Benefit
Nebraska currently has the eighth-highest property tax rate in the United States, and an expanding gambling industry would provide some property tax relief. Close to 70 percent of all of the gaming revenue brought in from gambling would go towards providing property tax relief to the citizens of the state.
If casino gambling is legalized, the state would impose a 20 percent tax on all gross gaming revenue. Financial experts estimate that the state could see close to $65 million in new tax revenue if this initiative is passed.
Nebraska is also seeing plenty of their neighboring states legalize sports betting or pass expanding gambling laws, and that is forcing residents outside of the state to gamble. Several other states in the US have cited this same reason for their passing of expanded gambling.
All of the states surrounding Nebraska already have casino gambling in some form, but the Cornhusker state has been slow to change their state constitution. There are five tribal casinos that offer Class I and II gaming, but they do not have any slot machines or table games on their property.
Anti-Gambling Groups Ready to Fight Back
Even though the “Keep the Money in Nebraska” group has seen plenty of support over the last few months, there are also some big opponents. An anti-gambling group, “Don’t Gamble with the Good Life,” is the most notable opponent to this initiative.
Pat Loontjer is the executive director of “Don’t Gamble with the Good Life,” and he is confident that even if the referendum appears on the ballot that it will be defeated. He notes that lawmakers have tried to pass gambling laws before, and the voters always turn it down.
Don’t Gamble with the Good Life is letting the process play out right now, but they plan on launching a massive campaign if the initiatives end up on the ballot. Loontjer claims that the initiatives are based on a lie, and he intends to point out the truth in the weeks leading up to the election.
The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is supporting the efforts to expand gambling laws, and they have helped fund the “Keep the Money in Nebraska” group. If the signatures are turned in by July 2, it could lead to a big battle over the next several months.