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"We're within striking distance": Local group promotes casino gambling in Nebraska

 The CEO of Lincoln Racecourse among others are working to get casino gambling on this November's ballot.
The CEO of Lincoln Racecourse among others are working to get casino gambling on this November's ballot. (KOLNKGIN)
Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 7:39 PM CDT
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A Nebraska group is restarting petition drives to get casino gambling on November's ballot after putting operations on hold due to COVID-19. The group, Keep the Money in Nebraska, is working on three ballot initiatives that would amend the Nebraska Constitution to allow casino gambling at licensed horse tracks. It would also create a tax initiative to give Nebraskans property tax relief and create the Nebraska Gaming Commission.

"If you get casinos approved, you want to get the taxation piece," Lincoln Racecourse CEO Mike Newlin said. "We're proposing a 20 percent tax on gross income revenue with 70 percent of that being earmarked for property tax relief." He also said the pandemic put them a little behind their original plan, but feel confident about getting the 130,000 signatures needed to get it on the ballot. He also said the initiatives have received support from several people across the state.

"Even the smaller towns; we have a requirement as far as closing out a certain number of counties. We've achieved that," Newlin said. One of the biggest topics Newlin wanted to stress is this would give Nebraskans property tax relief. Nebraska Family Alliance's policy director Nate Grasz said this isn't the way Nebraska should get property tax relief.

"We think this, right now, is something that will take more money away from families," Grasz said. He says the state does have things it needs to improve on, but casino gambling is not the solution as it would hurt vulnerable populations.

"The only way for the state to win and collect that tax revenue is if it's taken from our citizens," Grasz said. "What we know about casinos and gambling is it hurts the people who can least afford it." For Newlin and the Keep the Money in Nebraska group, they say people don't even have to go to casinos to benefit from the property tax relief casinos could provide.

"It still baffles me why we haven't done this a long time ago," Newlin said. He also said he's very confident if this gets to the November ballot, it will get passed by voters. All signatures for ballot initiatives must be turned into the Nebraska Secretary of State by July 2.

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