Nebraska Set to Vote on Casino Gambling

Voters in the state of Nebraska will have their say on three ballot referendums that are looking to legalize casino gambling throughout the state. Nebraska Lawmakers have been wanting to legalize the industry, but it will require approval from the voters.

Initiative 429 is the biggest question for voters as it would make a change to the Nebraska Constitution. If passed, the six licensed horse tracks in the state would be able to offer games of chance at their facilities.

A governing gaming commission would be established if Initiative 430 is passed. Finally, Initiative 431 is seeking to place a 20 percent tax on all gross gaming revenue brought in by the casinos.

All three of the initiatives would need to pass before the race tracks can start to build up a casino. A simple majority is required to pass the referendums, but “yes” votes have to be more than 35 percent of all of the votes cast in the election.

The pro-casino initiative is being funded by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, specifically the Ho-Chunk Inc. corporation. Native American tribes throughout the country offer gaming on tribal land, but that is not the case in Nebraska.

At this time, Nebraska does not have any Class III gaming compacts with the Native American tribes. If the three initiatives are passed this November, it would give lawmakers the power to begin these discussions.

Ho-Chunk Inc purchased the Atokad Downs race track in 2012, and is hoping to offer casino gambling at that location. The tribe would have to pay property and sales taxes if it were to offer gaming, something it does not currently do.

The Winnebago Tribe currently operate huge gaming operations in Iowa, and now that group is looking to broaden its scope. Other tribes in Nebraska would be afforded the same opportunities if these referendums pass, but the Ho-Chunk Inc group is the one leading the charge.

Osborne Opposed to Referendums

One of the biggest opponents of these referendums is former US Congressman Tom Osborne. Osborne is also a legendary college football coach in Nebraska, leading the Cornhuskers to three national championships when he was at the helm.

Osborne has repeatedly been against the idea of legalizing sports betting in the state, and he is firm on his opposition of casino gambling as well. He is one of the most well-known Nebraska residents, and his opinion will carry a lot of weight with the voters.

The legendary football coach is starring in a series of commercials titled, “Gambling With the Good Life.” Osborne warns that legalizing casino gambling can lead to addiction and higher crime rates, which is a similar argument taken up by opponents of gambling throughout the US.

Jobs, Tax Relief Could Be Provided

Proponents of the ballot initiatives contend that legalizing the casino industry would bring more jobs to the state. It would also offer tax relief for the citizens as gross gaming revenue would provide an economic boost to the state.

Lawmakers and industry leaders believe that more than 4,000 new jobs would be created if the initiatives pass. They also argue the state is losing out on more than $500 million per year as bettors travel to Iowa to do their wagering.

“Keep the Money in Nebraska” is the name of the group that is supporting these initiatives and they have been aggressive in their advertising. The group has advertised that by passing these referendums it would mean $49 million less in property taxes for homeowners.

Rebecca Kont
Rebecca Kont

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