The Nebraska-based Winnebago Tribe continues its push for legalizing casino gambling in the state by pumping nearly $1.5 million into a petition ballot drive. The campaign aims at allowing voters to decide in November 2020 whether to allow casino-style gambling at the state’s licensed horse racing tracks.
Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, is funding the petition with nearly $1.5 million, the Associated Press reported, citing data from state campaign finance records. The campaign was launched in April 2019 with the petition being filed with Secretary of State of Nebraska by the committee of the Keep the Money in Nebraska campaign. The committee includes Ho-Chunk Inc., as well as Nebraska Horsemen’s Nebraska Benevolent Protection Association, an official representative of Thoroughbred owners and trainers from all across the state.
If the campaign succeeds, next year Nebraska voters will have their say on an issue that has been the subject of a lot of debate in the past few years – whether casino gambling should be allowed at horse racing tracks. People would vote on three different measures in the 2020 election – one of them would be a constitutional amendment to legalize casino gambling, while the other two would introduce changes to state law for regulating and taxing the new gambling sector.
If voters decide in favor of expanded gambling, casino-style games would be offered at the licensed venues in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus, South Sioux City and Hastings. To appear in next year’s election, the petition ballot drive needs to get enough signatures by July 2. The political committee has been supporting various gambling measures since 2004. Now it backs several legislative changes that aim at expanding, regulating and taxing casino gaming in Nebraska.
According to Lance Morgan, president and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., collecting signatures in the winter is quite challenging but he hopes that the campaign would go as planned and be successful. Morgan said that expanded gambling would generate $80 million in annual tax revenue, which would provide essential funding for cities, counties, and the state. Ho Chunk Inc. is the tribal corporation, which currently owns and operates the WinnaVegas Casino and Resort in Sloan, Iowa.
New Gambling Measure to Boost the Nebraskan Economy
If legalized, the casino-style gaming would boost the economy of the state, gambling proponents believe. According to the Keep the Money in Nebraska campaign, the new measure would generate between $80 million and $120 million in tax revenue – this is the money the state is currently losing to neighboring states’ casinos. Campaigners believe that Nebraskans are spending more than $500 million every year in casinos in other states. Only Iowa casinos are siphoning off more than $320 million a year, while Nebraskan casino patrons cross the Missouri River to gamble.
The measure, according to Morgan, would bring money to city and state coffers – money that can be used for lowering property taxes. But the property tax relief is not the only important thing Nebraskans should consider, according to campaign backers. The tax revenue from the new casino-style gaming could be used for various country and city projects such as K-12 education and infrastructure.
Moreover, expanded gambling would create jobs and provide a boost for the local horse racing industry and the hotel and entertainment sector, campaigners believe, adding that all this would stimulate the entire economy of the state.