Neb. racing proposal fails

Farm Forum

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – A proposed ballot measure that could allow betting on previously recorded horse races has failed to win enough support from Nebraska lawmakers.

Backers fell two votes short on April 3 of the 30 votes needed to approve the proposed constitutional amendment.

The legislation, by Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, would have allowed voters in November to decide if Nebraska should license and regulate wagering on the races.

If approved by voters, the legislation would allow the installation of video betting terminals at race tracks only.

Supporters argue that allowing the bets would help the struggling horse racing industry and increase live racing in the state. Opponents say the measure amounts to expanded gambling.

This is an industry worth keeping in Nebraska, Lautenbaugh said.

“We can save these jobs,” he said. “We can save this industry.”

Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala said that horse racing is part of the state’s agricultural heritage.

“We 49 get to vote on a lot of issues every day,” he said. “Let’s let the people of the state Nebraska vote on this important issue, this important agricultural issue.”

Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha, who led the opposition to the legislation during previous rounds of debate, said he was not surprised by the outcome.

The outcome highlights “that this constitutional amendment has serious flaws and that it is not in a form it should be in if we’re going to send it to the people of Nebraska and I think enough of my colleagues agreed with that,” he said.

McCoy, who doesn’t support the amendment, would have preferred to see the language of the legislation clearly distinguish between pari-mutuel wagering for live and simulcast racing and a new form of gambling through instant racing terminals, he said.

Lautenbaugh filed a motion to reconsider the vote, so lawmakers may vote on the issue again this session.