Conservative Leaders Rally Against Nebraska Casino Ballot Measure

Posted on October 8, 2020 - Last Updated on October 13, 2020

If voters in the Cornhusker State approve a Nebraska casino measure next month, it will be in spite of the wishes of the NE governor and other conservative leaders.

Joining Gov. Pete Ricketts in opposition to the ballot measure are former Gov. Kay Orr and former US Rep. Tom Osborne. As early voting is already ongoing in Nebraska, so is the anti-casino messaging from this camp.

Argument for ‘no’ on Nebraska casino vote

Enlisting Orr and Osborne to Ricketts’ cause is all about their celebrity statuses in the state. Before becoming a congressman, Osborne was a legendary University of Nebraska football coach.

At the crux of their case is that the potential increase of gambling addiction nullifies the fiscal benefits of legalizing casino games in Nebraska. Ricketts has been consistent in his opposition to gambling expansion, penning an op-ed nearly two months ago.

However, there isn’t any evidence to support his argument that casinos would increase the number of Nebraskans with compulsive gambling issues. A 2012 University of Iowa study shows that gambling expansion actually correlates to fewer people gambling along with a drop in the prevalence of problem gambling.

While proponents of a legal gambling expansion in NE may not have equitable star power at their disposal, their messaging may have more substance. For that reason, it may prove to be more convincing.

Counterargument to Ricketts’ messaging

The citizen group behind the latest push to legalize casinos in Nebraska has focused its sales pitch on one element. Keep the Money in Nebraska is a self-explanatory message.

They argue that Nebraskans are leaving the state to gamble at casinos elsewhere. Neighboring Kansas, South Dakota and Iowa casinos are, therefore, enjoying the benefits of Nebraska tax dollars.

The casino ballot measures mention property tax relief for Nebraskans. In addition, Keep the Money in Nebraska touts the creation of more than 4,000 jobs on its website.

If any of the three related ballot measures pass, they will amend the state’s constitution to allow NE racetracks to offer poker, slots and table games. That could be a step toward legalizing sports betting in the future as well.

When the state tabulates all the votes on Nov. 3, casino opponents and proponents will discover which message was most effective. Until then, both sides of the debate will continue to push hard.

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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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