October 6, 2020 3 min read


Nebraska Casino Opposition Gathers Strength Ahead of the Vote

Casino legalization in Nebraska is facing serious political opposition ahead of the November vote as some of the biggest names in politics stood against the ballot measures, arguing casinos would fuel gambling addiction and other types of related social misbehavior.

Residents in Nebraska would have the chance to express their will whether to allow state-licensed race tracks to develop casinos during the November general elections which in-person started this week. Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus and South Sioux City will be potentially affected by the ballot vote outcome.

Damage to the Quality of Living

Opponents of the casino measure argue that such an initiative would certainly damage the quality of living in the state, as it will mostly affect relatives and families of those who have a gambling problem. Republican Gov. Pete Rickets, former Gov. Kay Orr, and a handful of state lawmakers all lined up in the casino opposition camp.

Casino opponents made their best to block the measure vote being added to the November elections by filing a lawsuit in September, but their stalling attempt was dismissed by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which ruled that the question could go to voters to decide.

Gov. Pete Ricketts expressed his view that the casino gambling is opposite to the general prudence and fiscal responsibility of Nebraska people, who usually take good care of their families. To back his claim, he cited a high-profile case, former state Sen. Brenda Council, who pleaded guilty in misdemeanor charges in 2012. A lawyer by profession, she lost her re-election bid and was disbarred after the admission she had used campaign money to gamble at casinos.

Gov. Ricketts outlined the state was already fighting gambling addiction, pointing to another case dating back to 2016, when a Lincoln pharmacist took out of the Medical system in excess of $14 million so he could gamble, for which he was sentenced to jail time. Casinos will make the matters even worse, Ricketts concluded.

Protecting the Poor and Vulnerable

The anti-casino group Gambling with the Good Life successfully managed to derail similar measures in the early 2000s and its executive director Pat Loontjer is determined to campaign again this time, despite being aware that she would probably be outspent by casino supporters.

And she has the support of the Nebraska Family Alliance and its policy director Nate Grasz who fears casinos will thrive at the back of low-income residents, a large portion of the industry’s client base. Protecting the poor and vulnerable is not possible while allowing an industry to exploit them at the same time, she argued.

New Jobs and State Tax Revenue

Backers of the casino measures argue that the measures would legalize and regulate the industry, while creating jobs and generating new income for the state. On the subject of gambling addiction, the pro-casino group outlined the issue was already present due to legal casinos in neighboring Iowa, a short drive across the Missouri River. Carter Lake, a town technically part of Iowa but located on the western side of the river and surrounded by Omaha, recently hosted a casino of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska.

The casino supporter camp which is represented by the main group behind the ballot campaign, Ho-Chunk Inc, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s economic development arm, also noted casinos would help the horse-racing industry in the state.

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