Nebraska senator who initially opposed expanded gambling in the state has filed three new bills on Tuesday to launch voter-approved casinos. The foe-turned-friend of the gambling industry, Sen. Tom Briese, the General Affairs Committee chairman, submitted the proposed measures to get racetrack casinos up and running in a timely manner, besides putting some regulations in place as those facilities are under construction.
What Led the Senator’s Change of Heart?
Briese said he offered the bills to help implement the trio of gambling initiatives approved by Nebraska voters last year.
“In November, they (voters) spoke, and they really delivered a mandate,” Briese said. “And they want the casinos at race tracks, and they want the property tax relief that that provides.” The lawmaker said, “It is incumbent on us to ensure the will of the voters is upheld.”
But that’s not without some regulations to the recently approved gambling expansion.
What Do the Proposals Entail?
Subsequently, the senator introduced two Legislative Bills 560 and 561. The proposals included a constitutional amendment seeking casino gambling at licensed horse tracks, in addition to two laws regulating the casinos, while earmarking the lion’s share of tax revenue to property tax relief.
The measure also seeks to limit betting to individuals in the casinos and prohibit the use of credit cards for gambling in casinos. It would also require background checks for individuals applying for gaming operator licenses, besides creating an enforcement mechanism for paying taxes. The proposed legislation also creates new crimes for things such as cheating, manipulating slot machines, or letting underage people gamble.
LB560 would also define that sports betting is indeed a game of chance while keeping gambling out of the households in the Cornhusker State and out of underage hands amid a time when placing a wager is as easy as going to a betting app. LB561 would incorporate into the existing State Racing Commission with the state’s Gaming Commission, creating a seven-member State Racing and Gaming Commission. It would empower the group to issue directives to carry out the initiatives instead of dabbling in the lengthy rules and regulations.
The measures also raised the age limit for betting on horse races to 21 from 19 in order to make it at par with the age limit at the casinos.
Bypassing the Rule-Making Process Will Speed Up Process
According to Briese, bypassing the rule-making process will lead to quick implementation. He feared that gambling opponents could drag the process to keep casinos from opening. Gov. Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson have to approve state rules and regulations.
The Racing Commission director, Tom Sage, said the measures would be helpful, mainly the sections of LB560 that devise criminal penalties. “We want as tough of restrictions as anyone in the country,” Sage said.”I want things done right.”
Also, merging the two commissions will effectively save money while avoiding duplication of staff and time. The initiative sought the Gaming Commission to include the five Racing Commission members and two additional appointees.
How Have We Reached Here?
The proposed measures were pushed by Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development wing of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, and the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents the horse owners and trainers who race in the Cornhusker State.
Drew Niehaus, a spokesman for WarHorse Gaming, a subsidiary of Ho-Chunk, said the tribe appreciated Briese’s endeavor to see the initiatives carried out. He said though they are still in the process of examining the bills’ implications, they have no concerns regarding proposed the proposed legislation. “Based on our initial assessment, the bills will help streamline some gaming operations, officially regulate sports betting, and allow the state to draw upon a new source of tax revenue quickly…”
Sage said the two new bills shepherded by Briese, in addition to LB 365, another Briese bill seeking to appropriate $225,000 for the fiscal year, are crucial to launching the race track casinos. Without the emergency appropriation, he said, there is no money available even to create a commission or issue a public notice of a meeting.