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Melanie Porter January 22, 2024 3 min read
Nebraska Gaming Commission Buys Semi-Automatic Rifles
The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission has purchased 10 semi-automatic rifles for its investigators to use in the event of an active shooting incident
Nebraska’s gambling regulator has spent $30,351 on 10 semi-automatic fully outfitted, short-barreled rifles that would be used by the agency’s 10 investigators in case of a shooting attack at a casino or racetrack.
The Purchase Raised Eyebrows Among State Lawmakers
As explained by Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission’s investigator Steve Eppens, “If we had an active shooter event, we have a duty to intervene and to eliminate that threat,” further emphasizing their role to protect the public.
Nonetheless, the purchase raised questions from state lawmakers as well as a few members of the board that supervises the commission. According to records, the agency attempted to cancel the order two months before it was placed, but it was already too late.
The peculiar purchase additionally raised questions regarding the regulator’s priorities in terms of spending in the context of the rifles coming before all investigators were handed vehicles to use during their work.
The commission’s board, Dennis Lee, explained that while the question of whether the rifles should have been bought is a subjective matter, the “optics is probably not the best in terms of how it was handled.”
Lee, however, assured the public that the rifles would not be handed over to the investigators until the board would establish clear policies, protocols, and procedures for how to store, train, and use them.
At the moment, the rifles, which arrived earlier in the month, are safely locked in the commission offices based in Lincoln.
Executive director Tom Sage gave the green light for the purchase of the 10 SIG Sauer MPX short-barrel rifles. Sage will retire effective in March and he is now on medical leave.
All 10 Investigators Are Deputy State Sheriffs
According to state law, all of the regulator’s investigators are certified by the state, considered deputy state sheriffs, authorized to make arrests, and armed with handguns. They are also certified to use firearms.
In the context of the opening of the casino gambling market in the Cornhusker State in 2022, the commission has hired more staff, investigators included.
Their duties include performing background checks on employees of casino and racing venues, investigating crimes, customer complaints, or various rule violations within the same facilities.
Since the first casino licensed by Nebraska opened its gates to the public one year and four months ago in Lincoln, investigators were confronted with a large number of crimes, with human trafficking, money laundering, and drug dealing on the list.
A homicide incident was also reported in 2023 at Fonner Park in Grand Island. Thus, the need to counteract “the criminal element that goes along in the gaming industry”, as explained by Eppens.
Eppens, together with the agency’s director of enforcement, Steve Anderson, further emphasized that the newly purchased rifles were aimed at protecting both patrons and officers while specifically meant to be used during a catastrophic event including an active shooter incident.
The rifles were bought from a gun dealer located in Henderson.