State Supreme Court Weighs Decision on Gambling Amendment

LINCOLN, Neb.-- When the horse gates open and the race begins, some in Nebraska prefer the betting remain as it always has - without the help of "slot" machines.

That's how Pat Loontjer, the executive director of Gambling with the Good Life, describes a new type of horse race betting machine that may make its way to Nebraska.

"It's exactly like a casino," Loontjer said.

"The only difference is - they've got the name at the top that says instant racing."

Loontjer said the new machines bet on current and historic races. And, after a trip to another state that had similar machines, she noticed that most people weren't even betting on actual races. They were betting on the historic ones.

The group filed a lawsuit this year to prevent an amendment from going on the November ballot. According to Loontjer, the Legislature passed an initiative that will allow voters to 1) approve a new form of gambling and 2) approve how the proceeds should be divided - all in one question.

"It is a double subject question," Loontjer said.

"You can't put a paragraph on the ballot and expect the voters to be able to vote intelligently. So, really, this is just a mockery of justice."

Loontjer said the amendment violates the state's single subject law requiring the voter to answer one question in one vote, and not two.

Supporters of the amendment, however, said Nebraska's lawmakers vetted the initiative before approving it and that it does not violate the state's law. They also said that Nebraskans will gain property tax relief from gambling revenues, if the measure is approved.

"There are concerns that were addressed by the legislature," Jordan McGrain, a spokesperson with Nebraska for Amendment One, said, "our elected officials debated this issue for two years.

"A lot of public back and forth. And, ultimately, [lawmakers] agreed, that the language was appropriate."

Loontjer said the court will likely decide whether to allow the amendment to go to vote or not by Sept. 12. That's the deadline for the Secretary of State to certify any issues to be placed on the November ballot.


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