LINCOLN — Patrons of racetrack casinos could not bet on Husker home games or other Nebraska college teams under a compromise advanced by lawmakers Thursday.
The ban was part of an amendment added to Legislative Bill 561, which implements voter-approved casino measures. The measures, passed last fall, include a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling at licensed horse racetracks, as well as laws regulating the casinos and earmarking most of the tax revenue for property tax relief.
The amendment to LB 561 also would ban casino patrons from using mobile phone apps to place bets and would require that casinos use the same time limits and paper betting slips as keno parlors, if the casinos offer keno games.
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State Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha, who introduced the amendment, said the changes were needed to get the 33 votes necessary to pass the bill. The Nebraska Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of state lawmakers to change laws passed by citizen initiative.
“It may not be everything you like,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we need to get LB 561 across the finish line.”
Lathrop, who represents the Ralston area, said he would vote against the bill if it did not include the keno changes. He advocated for letting local keno parlors offer electronic keno apps to help them compete with the new racetrack casinos. But lawmakers stripped out that provision on Monday.
Other senators had threatened to pull their support if the bill allowed betting on Nebraska college teams playing games in the state. Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln said it would put too much pressure on college athletes to have fans placing bets on their games.
But Sen. Terrell McKinney of Omaha argued that the ban would make Nebraska casinos less competitive with those in Iowa and would mean a loss of revenue for the state. Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln raised similar objections, saying that Nebraskans are already betting on in-state college games.
“We’re pretending like this isn’t occurring and then cutting off the revenue stream,” he said. “It is literally just puritanical nonsense.”
Lawmakers voted 31-4 to include the compromise amendment after Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, the bill’s sponsor, said he could accept the changes.
In its current version, LB 561 would limit sports betting to in-person wagers or bets placed on special kiosks in the casinos. Along with the ban on in-state college games, it would prohibit bets on high school sporting events or other events with athletes under age 18, as well as minor league sports. The bill will have to come back before lawmakers for final approval.
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