Gambling in Nebraska passes, officials prepare for next steps

Nebraska voters will have a big decision to make when it comes to gambling.
Nebraska voters will have a big decision to make when it comes to gambling.(KSNB)
Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 3:56 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Nebraska gamblers won big last night.

Voters overwhelmingly approved three ballot initiatives that allow casino gambling at all six of Nebraska’s horseracing tracks.

Opponents of expanding gambling had fought for about 25 years to keep more gambling out of the state, but last night by a wide margin voters said yes to casinos.

Now the pony won’t be the only thing Nebraska gamblers can bet on.

All games of chance will be legal at all Nebraska horseracing tracks. All the gambling you find at Iowa casinos will be here in Nebraska.

“I believe the attorney general years ago ruled that sports betting is a game of chance so it’s our understanding that sports betting will be part of that once we do get the casino’s in,” said Mike Newlin, General Manager of Horseman’s Park.

Mike Newlin is the general manager of Horseman’s Park and The Lincoln Racecourse. He says it could take some time before the slot machine wheels start spinning in Nebraska.

“First the gaming commission has to be appointed, it’s the current Nebraska racing commission which is five members, the governor needs to appoint two more members, needs to make that a gaming commission and that gaming commission will have to establish all the rules and regulations for the casinos,” said Newlin.

While that’s going on Newlin says they will be working with architects to figure out how to create casinos on their properties.

Opponents of gambling say they really don’t have another card to play in this fight.

“It’s a sad day for Nebraska, it’s really a sad day we’ve changed or constitution we’ll never be able to go back we’re going to have casinos all over the state, we’re going to have sports betting, we’re going to have internet gambling and lots of heartaches,” said Pat Loontjer with Gambling with the Good Life.

Pat Loontjer has been fighting against expanded gambling in Nebraska for decades, this is her first loss and it’s a big one.

“They’re going to have to negotiate a contract with the governor, the governors very anti-gambling but by Law, he has to negotiate so we’ll see how that turns out,” said Loontjer.

One of the initiatives approved by the voters calls for funds generated by the casinos to be used for property tax relief.

Nebraska gamblers won big last night.

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