Nebraska May Finally Be Considering Commercial Casinos

In Nebraska, gamblers have access to casino gaming but only via tribal casinos. Currently, the state only allows for tribes to operate gaming venues and these facilities can only offer card games and bingo where the house has no stake in what happens with the outcome. For some time now, proponents of commercial casino gaming have been trying to petition for the state to consider the option on the 2020 ballot. It seems efforts may be moving forward, finally after many months of work.

Public Support Has Grown

The effort to see casino gaming come to the region is being backed financially by Ho-Chunk Inc., the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s Economic Development Corporation. Proponents of the option have tried in the past, several times, to be able to bring casinos of Las Vegas style to the region. However, opponents always stood in the way.

The issue was brought up way back in 2004 and 2006, even making it to the ballot, but was voted down by residents. In 2014, another effort was deemed unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court so it did not make it on the ballot that year.

Now, it seems that public support has been gained, which could allow the option to move forward and even be approved with a ballot vote. It could be that players are ready to have access to more games. Currently, they only have the limited options at tribal casinos along with keno, lottery and horse racing. For the state to stay in competition with others in the nation, they would eventually need to expand on their offering.

Ho-Chunk Support

Ho-chunk Inc. has continued to show support with Lance Morgan, the CEO of the group, pointing out that hundreds of millions go to other states nearby via Nebraska residents as they take part in casino gaming that is not available in their home state. Along with commercial casino gaming, other states offer sports betting, which is something that some feel Nebraska needs to consider as well.

Mr. Morgan is confident that the voters of Nebraska will approve a measure involving commercial casinos, if it is added to the ballot. Reportedly, the Ho-Chunk completed a poll in which strong support was provided for the option.

Proponents of commercial casinos for the state have learned from past mistakes in their efforts to see a measure placed on the ballot. The current measure has been changed so that it will appeal to legislators as well as voters, also with the ability to stand up to a challenge in court if need be.

The renewed efforts include three petitions. The first involves a constitutional amendment for casino gambling at the horse race tracks that are licensed in the state. The other two involve the regulation and taxation of casino games.

In the past, the Supreme Court rejected efforts made on these subjects as they were combined in one measure and would force voters to provide one answer on all three subjects. Breaking up the measures into three separate options, allows voters to decide on individual subjects.

Proponents are more optimistic that the plans will come to fruition, at least getting the measure on the ballot for a public vote. Even if the measures are placed on the ballot, they will not be considered until 2020. So, it would still be several years before the state could offer commercial casino gaming. However, at least the effort is in motion and it seems to be leading towards full casino gaming for the state.


Rebecca lives in Las Vegas and after completing her degree at Reynolds Journalism school joined the USGS team to pursue her journalism dreams.