Gambling issue could reappear on fall ballots

Friday, May 19, 2006

If Nancy Osborne is looking for something to do now that the governor's mansion has been put out of reach, one of her old causes has resurfaced.

Even though Nebraska voters turned down casino gambling two years ago, three new gambling issues could appear on the November ballot by petition.

One, touted by a Las Vegas company and a Mississippi political consulting firm, would allow casino gambling. Another would allow individual keno play at video machines. Both of those could easily be dismissed as promotion by outside interests.

The third might be tougher to oppose. Proponents say it could help the Winnebago, Santee Sioux and Omaha American Indian tribes become self-sufficient and self-supporting through one tribally run casino off reservation land -- probably near Omaha. It would also allow them to operate casinos on tribal land.

Under the proposal, 30 percent of the revenue would mostly go to schools, with 20 percent to counties and 5 percent to support horse racing and help compulsive gamblers.

It would be hard to vote against something that would support tribes that have a 60 to 70 percent unemployment rate.

It also might be hard for Southwest Nebraskans to vote against the tribal casino issue if they remember how they have benefited from the Nebraska Lottery.

The Nebraska Environmental Trust recently awarded $40,000 to the Red Willow County Hazardous Waste Project, which will purchase a skid loader and trailer to help collect things like old paint, chemicals and other fluids that could contaminate landfills. Another $35,578 went to the Middle Republican Natural Resources District to create a Republican River Basin Pocket Irrigation Guide, and $26,250 to the Southwest Public Health Department for testing of private wells.

All are worthwhile projects, supported by gambling.

But it may all be moot for now; Secretary of State John Gale won't decide whether the state constitution allows a vote this year until after the signatures are submitted.

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