Legislature gives initial approval to 'historical horse races'

2013-03-13T11:00:00Z 2015-05-20T14:59:34Z Legislature gives initial approval to 'historical horse races'By KEVIN O'HANLON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

After eight hours of debate over four days, a measure that ultimately could allow betting on so-called historical horse races at Nebraska's thoroughbred race tracks gained first-round approval Wednesday.

The proposed constitutional amendment (LR41CA) would be put on the ballot for voter approval. The measure advanced 29-19 and faces two more rounds of consideration.

The vote came after lawmakers voted 33-13 to invoke cloture to end a filibuster by Sen. Ernie Chambers against the bill. Cloture requires approval by 33 of the Legislature's 49 senators.

"I'm gratified to get cloture and have it advanced," said the measure's sponsor, Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha. "We'll continue to work for that final vote."

After the measure advanced, Lautenbaugh withdrew his bill (LB590) that also would have approved machines that allow wagering on the outcomes of past races, which are chosen at random from a bank of thousands. Any information that would help someone identify when and where the race was run is "scrubbed" from the video.

Lawmakers passed a similar bill by Lautenbaugh last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Dave Heineman, and an attempt to override the veto failed by two votes.

Lautenbaugh said lawmakers need to help the horse racing industry, which has struggled for several years.

In vetoing the bill last year, Heineman said it represented a new form of gambling and was problematic in several ways. For one thing, he said, it wasn't clear whether this form of wagering was constitutional.

Plus, making historical horse racing licenses contingent on a state Racing Commission determination on construction of a Lincoln race track and certain accomplishments of race tracks could be improper delegation of legislative authority, the governor said.

Lautenbaugh argues that the commission already has the authority to allow the machines but that tracks are afraid to try it without a law specifically stating historical racing is legal.

Critics say the machines are nothing more than slot machines and would constitute expanded gambling.

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

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