Another debate expected on gambling in Nebraska

Another debate expected on gambling in Nebraska

By Paul Hammel February 11, 2013 6:20 pm Comments

The above headline could be written every year when discussing the Nebraska Legislature.

 Debates about gambling are about as common as new ideas to spur job growth or revamp state aid to education.

 But you have to wonder if two perennial issues — speeding up keno lotteries and granting racetracks the authority to take bets on historic races — might cross the finish line this year.

 Last year, a historic horseracing bill introduced by Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh was passed by the Legislature, only to be unsaddled by a veto from Gov. Dave Heineman, whose idea of an appropriate bet is a symbolic one with a fellow governor over an NU football game.

 But Lautenbaugh might get a more sympathetic ride for his bill this year with a crop of new lawmakers and the continued decline of thoroughbred horseracing. Nebraska is down to only one decent track, Fonner Park in Grand Island, and the industry is “desperate,” the senator told a legislative committee Monday.

 Lautenbaugh also has a companion measure, a proposed constitutional amendment, which would allow Nebraska voters the chance to clear up any legal uncertainties about whether racetracks can take bets on historic races. Attorney General Jon Bruning has raised concerns about that, concerns that prompted the veto from Gov. Heineman.

  Wilber Sen. Russ Karpisek has tried for years to allow keno lotteries to run more games, and thus take more bets, per hour. His latest proposal, LB 273, was advanced by the General Affairs Committee on Monday on a 5-2-1 vote. So a floor debate is coming soon. 

 The bill would allow keno games every 3 minutes, instead of the current 5 minutes. Gambling opponents say that just allows people to lose more money; Karpisek says it allows communities to make more money from keno, which is losing out to faster forms of gaming.