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Initiative would authorize casino gambling at horse race tracks

Initiative would authorize casino gambling at horse race tracks

From the The 2020 Journal Star general election Voter's Guide series
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Nebraska measure could tip the number of states with casinos

The Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa, is seen across the river from downtown Omaha (rear), where casino gambling is prohibited. A casino gambling initiative will be on the November ballot.

Nebraska voters will determine whether to allow casino gambling to enter the state when they consider a three-pronged initiative on the general election ballot.

The proposal, which would authorize casino gambling at Nebraska horse race tracks, first had to clear a challenge in the Nebraska Supreme Court before securing access to the November ballot.

The court, on a 4-3 vote, ruled that the proposal did not violate constitutional requirements for a single topic even though it is split into three separate votes, including allocation of 70% of the state revenue generated by the new gambling source to local property tax relief.

The central question to be decided by voters is whether to approve a constitutional amendment that adds casino gambling at race tracks to authorized gambling forms in Nebraska.

Race tracks operate in or near Omaha, Lincoln, South Sioux City, Grand Island, Hastings and Columbus, but new tracks presumably could also spring up if the initiative is enacted by Nebraska voters.

Gambling With the Good Life, an organization that has successfully resisted previous efforts to expand gambling options in the state, has signaled that it will aggressively oppose the measure.

"It will open the state for unlimited Indian casinos (and) this will be a disaster and change the face of our great state forever," the organization argues.

The Keep the Money in Nebraska proposal was sponsored by Ho-Chunk, Inc., the Winnebago Tribe's economic development corporation, in partnership with the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Omaha Exposition and Racing.

Supporters have argued that Nebraskans already engage in casino gambling in bordering states -- with gambling at casinos in Council Bluffs, across the border from Omaha as the prime example -- and help fund economic activity and provide tax revenue in other states. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or

On Twitter @LJSdon


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