Lawmaker wants casino gambling in Nebraska

2014-01-21T15:00:00Z 2014-01-23T15:47:44Z Lawmaker wants casino gambling in NebraskaBy KEVIN O'HANLON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
January 21, 2014 3:00 pm  • 

Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber thinks it's high time that Nebraska approves casino gambling, which he says will raise money for tax relief and state aid to schools, among other things.

Nebraska allows keno, horse racing and a lottery but has resisted video gambling machines and casinos. Casino gambling is allowed in the states that surround Nebraska.

"We're giving so much of this (gambling) money to other states. Why not save it for ourselves?" Karpisek asked.

He introduced a proposed constitutional amendment Tuesday (LR416CA) that would ask voters to approve casino gambling in the state. Under his plan, voters in a city or county in which a casino is proposed would have to approve it.

The Legislature would then set up fees and/or taxes on the casino, of which 50 percent would go to reduce statewide property taxes, 25 percent would go to public schools, 12 percent would go to the state Game and Parks Commission, 12 percent would go to the Department of Natural Resources to help with water projects and 1 percent would go to fight compulsive gambling.

There have been recurring efforts through the years to get casino gambling approved.

When voters last weighed in on the issue in 2004, they voted down two proposals to allow it: a ballot measure touted by Las Vegas casino interests and a measure by the Legislature. Supporters still say casino gambling would have been approved had only one measure been on the ballot. The 2004 initiative favored by Las Vegas interests got 47 percent of the vote. The legislative proposal got 36 percent.

In 2003, the Nebraska Supreme Court gutted a petition effort that would have asked voters to approve video slot machines.

Nebraskans for Local Control gathered 178,000 signatures to put the video slots initiative on the ballot, but opponents successfully challenged its constitutionality in court, and it did not go before voters.

The high court said the proposed constitutional amendment was invalid because organizers did not have a sworn statement on file with the secretary of state listing sponsors of the measure, as required by state law.

Other bills introduced Tuesday included:

* INDUSTRIAL HEMP: A bill (LB1001) by Sen. Norm Wallman of Cortland would allow farmers to become licensed to grow industrial hemp. A relative of the marijuana plant, industrial hemp has been used in paper, clothing, lotions and other consumer products. It can also be used in the production of fuel, much like corn in ethanol. Industrial hemp is illegal under federal law, although three members of the U.S. House are trying to change that in the pending Farm Bill.

* ANIMAL CRUELTY: A bill (LB1002) by Wallman would require dogs or cats found at a facility violating the Commercial Dog and Cat Operator Inspection Act be seized by authorities. Current law says only that the animals may be seized. The violation would have to pose a "significant threat to the health or safety of the dogs or cats."

Reach Kevin O'Hanlon at 402-473-2682 or kohanlon@journalstar.com.

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