Nebraska lawmakers strip cellphone keno out of casino bill

Posted at 2:14 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 20:26:02-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A proposal to let people play keno on their mobile phones in Nebraska bars and keno parlors stalled abruptly after lawmakers stripped it out of a casino legalization bill.

Lawmakers voted 27-11 to remove the provision from a broader bill that would regulate Nebraska’s new casino industry.

Voters legalized casinos in November despite opposition from prominent gambling opponents, including Gov. Pete Ricketts. Voters didn’t directly address keno when they approved the constitutional amendment to allow casinos.

Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers worries there aren't enough votes to pass the entire gambling regulation bill, unless keno was nixed.

He worries gambling could go unregulated, or remain illegal, if that happens.

“If we don’t, I think that’s a very black mark on this body,” said Hilgers.

But supporters argued that casinos will end up hurting the keno industry, which generates millions of dollars in tax revenue for Nebraska cities each year.

“Why we would take and deliberately leave the field uneven. I don’t understand," said Senator Steve Lathrop, who represents Ralston, a city that relies on keno revenue.

Under current state law, keno is still played with paper cards, while casinos offer flashier, computerized games.

Download our apps today for all of our latest coverage.

Get the latest news and weather delivered straight to your inbox.