LINCOLN — Nebraskans could check out prize cattle, eat a corn dog and put down some money at the roulette table under a bill given first-round approval by state lawmakers Tuesday.
Legislative Bill 371, introduced by State Sen. Ray Aguilar of Grand Island, would create a new exemption to a law passed in 1879. The law bans “indecent shows or dances” as well as gambling and horse racing “within 40 rods” of a state or county fair. For the record, 40 rods equals 660 feet.
Aguilar said the law would create problems for Grand Island, Hastings and Columbus, all of which host fairs and have horse race tracks.
Those tracks can add casinos under a trio of ballot measures passed by voters last year. But without a law change, the casinos would either have to shut down for the duration of the fairs or the fairs would have to move.
Aguilar said past exemptions allow people to bet on horse races, play bingo, keno or pickle cards and buy lottery tickets while fairs are going on.
A handful of lawmakers opposed the bill, arguing that county and state fairs are family events. They raised concerns that parents would go to the casinos and leave their children unsupervised at the fair.