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Nebraska lawmaker originally against gambling expansion proposes bills to streamline process

Posted at 10:26 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 11:58:37-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A state senator who initially opposed expanded gambling in Nebraska has filed three new bills that would streamline the process of opening voter-approved racetrack casinos, as well as put some regulations in place as those facilities are still being built.

“In November the voters spoke and they really delivered a mandate, and that mandate is that they want to see casinos at racetracks, and they want the property tax relief that that will provide," said Sen. Tom Briese, Nebraska's General Affairs Committee Chairman.

Briese says since Nebraska voted yes on gambling at racetracks last November, it has become his responsibility as a lawmaker to see that the will of the voters is played out swiftly. But that’s not without some regulations to the newly approved gambling expansion.

LB 560 would clarify that the often-debated sports betting is indeed a game of chance. It also would keep gambling out of Nebraska homes and out of underage hands during a time when placing a bet is as easy as going to an app.

Lynne McNally Executive Vice President of the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, says technology is already available to limit betting at the casino to designated areas.

“If this bill passes, we will be installing what’s called geofencing," McNally said. "So you could place bets within the racetrack enclosure itself, meaning our facility, but you would not be able to place a bet outside of the facility.”

LB 560 also would prohibit credit cards from being used to place bets, and requires those seeking a gaming license to undergo a background check.

Gambling with the Good Life, which has fought against adding casinos in Nebraska for decades, still opposes sport betting. But they do appreciate Briese’s efforts to create regulations before those casinos have even opened their doors.

“He is trying to minimize the damage which is what we’re all about, as far as how it’s going to affect the public and businesses and youth and everything else," said Executive Director Patt Loontjer.

The ballot measure passed in November also establishes the Nebraska Gaming Commission, but with LB 561 Briese would like to see that combined with Nebraska’s Racing Commission.

“We felt that would be a more efficient use of state resources, and there’s going to be some efficiency involved in doing that," Briese said.

He’s also proposed LB 365, which would give $225,000 from the General Fund to the Gaming Commission. He says hiring experts and establishing regulations in the coming months will require some funding.

“It’s important that we get those dollars to the commission as soon as we can, help facilitate to get this thing, and insure that we move this thing along as soon as possible.”

Those new racetrack casinos are expected to open in early 2022. Gambling with the Good Life says they will be speaking against sports betting at the legislature in the meantime.

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