Nebraska could become one of the next states to take on gambling. There’s also been extensive debate on the issues of casino expansion and recreational sports gaming, with many bills being presented to the state legislature earlier this year.
If lawmakers want to know what the public opinion is about the topics, they need only look as far as the campaign “Keep the Money In Nebraska,” which is a citizen-led effort to bring casinos to the Cornhusker State. Yesterday, the organisation handed over three ballot proposals to state lawmakers that they hope would make it onto the ballot of this November, backed by about 475,000 signatures.
One of the three measures addresses a necessary amendment to the Constitution of Nebraska to allow casinos to pop up on the horse tracks of the State. The second is equally significant, paving the way for the formation of the Nebraska Gaming Commission (NGC) to regulate the gambling operation and the third set the requirements for how taxes on casino offerings should be applied. Backed up by nearly a quarter of the residents of the state, lawmakers are given more than enough public support to take the initiatives seriously.
The Keep the Money In Nebraska campaign was initiated by Ho-Chunk, Inc., a development organisation founded by the Nebraska Winnebago Tribe and sponsored by the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. Lance Morgan, Ho-Chunk’s president and CEO, is excited about the possibilities demonstrated by the signature-gathering effort and states: We’re thrilled. We worked super-hard to do this. We’re hoping that the people’s voice gets to be heard.”
The name of the initiative comes from the obvious – when gamblers cross state boundaries to wager, the state and local governments are missing out on valuable tax revenue. Regardless of any personal gambling likes or dislikes, gamblers will play no matter what-legally or illegally. As soon as lawmakers realise that, they can push for legalised gambling and capture a portion of the more than $150 billion they have missed.
Now that other states have started legalising gambling, Nebraska can only watch out for placing their bets as state residents head outside its borders. Morgan goes on to add: “All that money is seeping into other jurisdictions. It’s about time that money stayed in Nebraska. We have done polling, and 64 percent of people we ask support it.”
An economic analysis put together by the campaign found that Nebraska could see as much as $325 million in annual revenue from gambling, and that state and local governments will receive $65 million in tax revenue which is currently lacking. Additionally, the expansion of gambling could bring in more than 4,600 new jobs, helping to further boost the state economy. States must be more independent than ever, and must draw income from all available sources.
This is difficult to disregard the success of the signature-gathering activities. The constitutional issue required 122,000 signatures and the other two needed 82,000 signatures each. However, for the constitutional amendment Keep the Money In Nebraska received 211,000 and for each of the other two over 130,000. While the signatures still need to be verified by the office of the Secretary of State, if everything goes according to plan, the questions could make an appearance on the ballot this November. If not, Nebraska will simply have to go on suffering and watching as it loses more revenue to Iowa and other states where the expansion of gambling has taken place.