"Historic race betting" would have produced the added revenues necessary to get Nebraska horse racing back on track, advocates say. Governor Heineman's "Historic Racing" bill (LB 806) veto now forces those advocates to consider new strategies.
For Grand Island Best Western Hotel owner, Gene McCloud, failure of the historic racing bill is a threat to the health of Nebraska horse racing, and a loss for business in the city.
"We could see the loss of racing in Nebraska. It would be a sad thing because it's been here for 50 years, and it's been a mainstay, especially in Grand Island. The bill would have benefited the racetrack, the purse structure, and the economic impact for people coming into the area, to stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and do those types of things," said McCloud.
McCloud and other proponents of historic racing see Fonner Park as the economic engine that led to the location of the Heartland Events Center and then, the State Fair in Grand Island.
For Fonner Park Assistant Racing Secretary Wayne Anderson, historic race betting would have produced the added revenues necessary to attract big-draw competitors.
It's big purses, he says, that bring the champion horses, their teams, and the fans who spend dollars in Grand Island.
The way Anderson sees it, LB 806 was somewhat of a jobs bill.
"We've lost farms because a lot of people don't breed here in Nebraska because the purses have gone down," said Anderson.
But opponents to the bill were upbeat about the veto, saying the bill would have opened the door to casino-style gaming.
"This is going to protect the good life in the state of Nebraska," said Gambling With the Good Life" Director Pat Loontjer.