Deadline Approaching For Nebraska Group’s Casino Ballot Petition

Posted on June 30, 2020 - Last Updated on June 29, 2020

One group advocating for legal gambling expansion in Nebraska faces a bigger challenge than in-state opposition to Nebraska casinos. The calendar isn’t friendly right now either.

Keep the Money in Nebraska only has through Thursday, July 2 to garner 130,000 signatures for its petition to open casinos in Nebraska. Even if it proves successful in that objective, it’s no guarantee that Nebraskans will enjoy casino gaming in their state.

The push to launch Nebraska casinos

Right now, it’s all about getting the requisite number of Nebraska voters to sign off on the proposal. That might only be a precursor to the real action, however.

The petition, if successful, would put a measure on the ballot for all Nebraska voters this November. The proposal would amend the state’s constitution to expand gambling.

The state’s racetracks would be able to offer slots and table games for the first time in Nebraska history. That could mean casinos in the following locations:

  • Columbus
  • Grand Island
  • Hastings
  • Lincoln
  • Omaha
  • South Sioux City

The proposed amendment would also create state oversight of gaming activity and set up a tax structure. The measure would earmark nearly 3/4 of the tax revenue from such games for property tax relief.

While it’s uncertain how many Nebraskans currently leave the state on a regular basis to visit casinos elsewhere, like Iowa casinos, what seems more certain is that Keep the Money in Nebraska has a vested interest. The group gets its funding from the Winnebago Tribe, who would look to operate a casino in the state.

Naturally, voters would have to approve the measure if it does make the ballot. Keep the Money in Nebraska is confident that they will make Thursday’s deadline. It’s unclear if they should be confident about the vote this fall, however.

Opposition to expanded gambling in Nebraska

The most significant hurdle for the ballot measure in November will be other organizations in the state. As is the case in many other states, some object to gambling expansion on moral grounds.

Upon previous attempts to legalize casinos in Nebraska, these groups have proven successful in swaying voters their way. They will likely employ similar tactics again this fall.

Such voter education campaigns focus on instances of problem gambling. If Keep the Money in Nebraska’s proposal does make the ballot, they will need to roll out their own messaging.

Those campaigns tend to center around job creation and tax relief. In the end, whether Nebraska voters authorize casinos may swing upon the effectiveness of communication, more than the merits of each sides’ arguments.

If voters do approve casinos, it may have little immediate effect on the gaming industry in Iowa. It will be some time before Nebraska casinos are actually up and running.

Additionally, the ballot measure would not broach the subject of legal sports betting in Nebraska. The Iowa sports betting industry would still pull action from Nebraskans that way even when NE casinos open their doors.

Naturally, this expansion may be but a precursor to sports wagering in the Cornhusker State someday. For now, however, the focus in Nebraska is on getting people to sign the casino petitions.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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