Bill to Classify Poker as Game of Skill Fails in Nebraska

NebraskaProposals to classify certain formats of poker as a game of skill in Nebraska have been defeated by committee members apprehensive about expanding gambling.

The Cornhusker State has a dark history when it comes to gambling. Nebraska´s largest city – Omaha – was once known from ocean to ocean with cards, dice, or whatever you wanted to gamble with according to a 1939 guide to the city. Furthermore, for more than eighty years, the state was one of the most lucrative revenue generators for Irish and Italian crime gangs.

A return to its former dark history was not what Nebraska Libertarian Senator Tyson Larson had in mind when sponsoring LB 619 – an amendment to the existing Nebraska Liquor Control Act that would allow draw games of poker and poker games using community cards (i.e. Texas Hold´em) to be played in licensed premises.

License Poker to Generate Revenues

The logic behind his bill was that there is a greater element of skill than luck in these formats of poker, and therefore playing licensed games of poker would not be in breach of the state´s constitution. The license fees generated by allowing premises to host live games of poker would go towards lowering property taxes and raising funds for local communities.

Larson argued that most residents of Nebraska live within seventy-five miles of a casino in Colorado, Iowa or South Dakota at which they are legally allowed to play poker. Consequently, the state suffers from the social ills of gambling without getting any of the economic benefit. He told reporters from the Associated Press:

We hear a lot about property tax relief, limited government and the state not getting involved. If we care about those issues, here’s an outside-the-box opportunity to show that we take these things seriously. We can help our local communities and their fundraising efforts.

Larson´s Logic Falls on Deaf Ears

Unfortunately the majority of members on the Senate General Affairs Committee failed to appreciate Larson´s logic and, after six hours of debate, the amendment was dismissed without a vote. Opponents of the amendment were obviously apprehensive of an expansion of [geolink href=””]gambling in Nebraska[/geolink] judging by some of the comments reported by the Associated Press.

Encouraging gambling in any form harms families and communities said one committee member, while another keen to display her ignorance was quoted as saying:

We’re going into very dangerous territory here by slowly and surely peeling away that which makes us great. I think this is chance. I’m not willing to bet Nebraska’s future on expanded gambling.

Senator Jim Smith from Papillion called the proposals an ineffective way to achieve the legislature’s aim of reducing property taxes, while other opponents of the amendment said that they based their opposition to the amendment on last year´s opinion by Nebraska Attorney General Doug Petersen that games of draw poker were primarily a game of chance.

Fortunately, LB 619 is not dead in the water just yet. The legislature can pick up the amendment at any time during the current session if a senator or a committee considers it to be a priority measure. Senator Larson has not yet given any indication if he will take this course of action to have his proposals reintroduced.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett