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Nebraska voters will see three gambling initiatives on ballot, here’s what they mean

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NEBRASKA (KTIV) - Nebraska voters will see three gambling initiatives on their ballots Nov. 3.

What exactly are those initiatives and what do they mean?

If approved, the initiatives will do three things:

  • Permit casino-style gambling at Nebraska horse racing track.
  • Regulate the gaming taking place.
  • Tax the gambling industry.

Eligible racetracks include those in South Sioux City, Lincoln, Omaha, Columbus, Hastings, and Grand Island.

So, how did the initiatives end up on the ballot?

Four groups including "Keep the Money in Nebraska, the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Winnebago Tribe's Ho Chunk Inc., and Omaha Exposition and Racing came together to sponsor the initiatives.

On July 2, the organizations submitted 475,000 signatures to get the initiatives on the ballot.

But, on Aug. 25, they were denied putting the initiatives on the ballot by the Nebraska Secretary of State Bob Evnen. He claimed the initiatives violated state laws.

Then, on Sept. 10, the Supreme Court ruled that the initiatives did not violate state laws, and ordered that all three be put on the ballot.

Now, it is up to Nebraskans to decide whether or not the initiatives will be implemented.

Lance Morgan, the CEO of Ho Chunk Inc., which is the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe says they did an economic study that shows since gaming opened, from the city of Omaha to Council Bluffs about 8.8 billion of Nebraska dollars have still crossed the river.

"Obviously it behooves the state of Nebraska to have those jobs, the economic activity, and those taxes here," said Lance Morgan, CEO of Winnebago Tribe's Ho Chunk Inc.

Morgan says if approved, it will create 60 to 80 million dollars in taxes for the state, and add about 4,600 jobs in just the Omaha and Lincoln markets.

He says it would also be significant in growing Ho-Chunk Inc.

"Ho-Chunk Inc. has a long history of taking the money we have made in activities and reinvesting it into the community," said Morgan.

He says a portion of the money will go directly towards property tax relief and the local city and county governments. As well as treating gambling addiction.

While Morgan says the initiatives are a way for Nebraska to become more successful, the Executive Director for "Gambling with the Good Life" is against these initiatives.

"We have a full-blown campaign. Vote no," said Pat Loontjer, Executive Director for "Gambling with the Good Life." "It's going to destroy the quality of life for Nebraska. We have never had casinos or slot machines and we rank high in all the best values the good life can present, and this is going to hurt families, it's going to hurt businesses."

Loontjer says only a small portion of the money will go towards the community, and those who are really benefiting are the casino owners.

"It's just a pittance for property tax, but the social cost is going to cost taxpayers irreparable debt," said Loontjer.

But the decision will be up to Nebraskans on Nov. 3.

During a press conference last week, former husker coach and congressman, Tom Osborne expressed his concerns about the initiative.

"The people that will carry the greatest burden of this problem will be the families, the spouses, the children for those who have a gambling problem because they pay the biggest price."

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Xava Parra

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