Conservatives Out In Full Force Against Nebraska Casino Initiative
Several former lawmakers of Nebraska are speaking out against an initiative on the November ballot that would bring casinos to the state.
A petition drive by Keep the Money in Nebraska was successful in securing three questions on the November ballot that could potentially bring casino gambling to the state. As voting day draws near, former lawmakers, all conservative, are pushing for voters to check NO on their ballots. Supporters say the new industry would bring over $45 million a year in property tax relief as well as revive the horse racing industry.
Say NO to Casinos
Among the conservatives coming out against the proposals is former congressman and Husker football coach Tom Osborne. The former congressman is actually leading the drive to try and stop the three ballot referendums from legalizing gambling in the state. Osborne is considered a major figure in the state as he won three college football national championships for the Nebraska Cornhuskers as well as moved on to be in US Congress.
Osborne says that the initiatives will damage the quality of living in the state. With more gambling, it means more money will leave the state along with adding addiction, crime, bankruptcy, and families will be destroyed. The coach made these points in a commercial via the anti-casino campaign known as Gambling with the Good Life.
Also lending their support against the cause is former Governor Kay Orr, Governor Pete Ricketts, former Governor Bob Kerrey and Dave Heineman. The group is turning to religious, business and other groups to get their message out against the initiatives.
On November 3, residents in the state will be asked three questions via the initiatives. The Nebraska Constitution will be changed with Initiative 429 to allow games of chance at the licensed horse race tracks. With Initiative 430, a gaming commission would be created to govern the new industry. With Initiative 431, a 20% tax would be placed on gross gaming revenue.
All three must pass for casino gaming to come to fruition in the state. With ballot referendums, the simple majority is needed. However, the affirmative votes must be higher than 35% of the total votes for approval.
If all three measures are approved, then the state constitution will change and casino gambling will be legal at Atokad Downs, Horsemen’s Park, Lincoln Race Course, Ag Park, Hastings Exposition and Fonner Park.
Proponents of the plan say that commercial gambling in the state will bring around 4,600 new jobs. It would stop a whopping $500 million in funds from leaving the state annually to nearby casinos in Iowa. It will also provide property tax relief, as mentioned earlier.
The initiatives are being funded by Ho-Chunk Inc., a economic development corporation owned and operated by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. The tribe is the owner of Atokad Downs, which is currently closed. They purchased the property in 2012 and hope to reopen one day as a casino.
Right now, the state does not have Class III gaming compacts with any federally recognized tribes in their state. Such an agreement is required for casinos to be able to offer table games and slot machines. For the Ho-Chunk, if the approval is given, they will have to operate the Atokad Downs casino as a commercial property. This means they would have to pay taxes, something they would not have to do as a tribal operator with a compact.
We shall see if the conservative efforts pay off this November when residents vote on the matter involving the three ballot initiatives. It is unclear if the initiatives have enough support to pass and if they will fall short of the needed percentage of affirmative votes to move forward.