Nebraska lawmakers have approved a bill that would allow machine bets on old horse races, which supporters cast as a job-saving measure and opponents assail as expanded gambling.
The measure won final approval Thursday, 26-18. It now heads to
Gov. Dave Heineman.
People at the Lincoln Race Course hope it will help save the horse racing industry.
Judd Bietz is the Director of Operations at the Lincoln Race Course. He tells 10/11, "This is a jobs bill, I am responsible for 350 employees here."
Steve Thiellen of Lincoln has come to the track since it the 1970's.. He says, "I think they need to provide something for the horsemen, it's only right."
The bill would allow machine bets at licensed Nebraska race
tracks from a library of tens of thousands of races chosen at
random. The screens do not do not identify the horses or say when
or where the races took place.
Bietz says, "You look at the machine, you bet on the machine that's already run, you don't know the race, the jockey the horse, but you're given a game of skill, with the handicap, you get to choose how you think this race is going to go."
Nebraska's horse racing industry has struggled for years, and a
critical lease for a track at State Fair Park in Lincoln is set to
expire this year. Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh says he introduced
the bill to help the industry.
But those against the bill say it's expanded gambling and the machines are like slot machines.
Al Riskowski with the Nebraska Family Council and Gambling With the Goodlife says, "This is a very rapid type machine, it does away with any kind of integrity of horse racing. There is no horse race that's involved with it, it's an instant racing terminal."
Riskowski says he hopes Gov. Heineman will veto the bill. But if he doesn't and senators override his bill, he questions if it would be legal.
Riskowski adds, "I would expect a lawsuit to be filed, because it seems very clear from what Wyoming has said, these are very similar to slot machines and unconstitutional in Nebraska."
Heineman has five days to sign or veto the bill, that excludes Sundays.