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Legislature mulling special session to put sports gambling on ballot

Posted at 10:26 PM, May 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-17 23:28:30-04

Despite a cost of over $12,000 per day with no guarantee the issue would even get on the ballot some lawmakers are pushing for a special session on sports gambling that could help the state rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in extra tax revenue.

Todd Hintze, who helps out at the Plattsmouth VFW, says that he'd love to place a bet on the Huskers to beat Iowa if given the chance. 

"People regulate themselves. Prohibition against beer didn't work, prohibition against soft drugs isn't working, prohibition against gambling isn't working. Every bar in town has a bookie and everybody knows that,” says Hintze.

Those under the table bets could soon be out in the open if Nebraskans vote to change the state constitution. 110,000 signatures are needed to get a sports betting amendment on the November ballot or lawmakers approving a ballot initiative during a special session. 

Senator Paul Schumacher says there is a sense of urgency because of the states poor financial situation and believes Nebraskans would approve sports gaming, if given the chance. 

"I have seen a good statistical analysis of the mentality of the voters towards expanded gambling in general and it's pushing 60 percent,” says Schumacher.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Krist wants voters to decide the issue, but would rather have the legislature vote in regular session to put it on the ballot in 2020. If a special session occurred, he wants the unicameral to avoid a long drawn out debate.

"I'd have to see that that organization structure is well-staffed so that when the legislature would come into session for a special session, it would be 10 days, done finished and move out," says Krist. 

Standing in the way, Governor Pete Ricketts, who says he'd remind senators the state could lose NCAA events, if sports gambling is legalized. 

"We'd also want to talk about the potential impact with the NCAA and losing the College World Series over it. So we'd work to educate state senators so they could make an informed decision," says Ricketts. 

On Thursday, the NCAA temporarily lifted a ban on holding championship events like the College World Series in states that allow betting on single games. 

Sen. Schumacher says he'll work over the weekend to push for a special session but says at this point it's a fairly slim possibility.