Osborne keeps spotlight on gambling issue

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne didn't earn his reputation for solid, moral, effective leadership by giving up after a defeat.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that only three months after losing a bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, he's jumped back into the fray by joining forces with Gambling With the Good Life.

A vote on casino gambling is in court this year, after Secretary of State John Gale decided Nebraska voters should not be required to deal with the issue after turning down two casino plans in 2004. The state constitution limits similar ballot proposals to no more than once in three years.

Another initiative, which will appear on the ballot, will ask voters to approve video keno.

Southwest Nebraska residents should be on top of the gambling issue; some see McCook as a prime location for a casino, and keno is reappearing here after dying of disinterest a few years ago.

There definitely is an appetite for gambling in Nebraska's Hot Spot, judging from the numerous illegal gambling devices that were removed from local and area bars last year. Is it a coincidence that keno seemed to reappear once those machines were gone?

But it's not just a question of what is legal and what is not.

"Every member of Congress that I have spoken with, that has gambling in their state, wishes it had never come," Osborne said.

Pat Loontjer of Gambling With The Good Life calls "slot machines" like video keno "the crack cocaine of gambling."

Gambling proponents point to benefits such as increased revenue -- the ballot initiative to allow a casino in each congressional district was promoted by "The Committee for Better Schools and More Jobs in Nebraska Inc."

But opponents say gambling creates $3 in social costs for every $1 it generates. They also say it redistributes wealth on an inequitable basis, depresses legitimate business, increases welfare costs, increases crime, corrupts government, victimizes the poor, is legalized stealing, undermines the work ethic, contradicts social responsibilities, violates all the sound theories of taxations, is an inconsistent source of state revenue -- and on and on.

We owe it to ourselves to keep close tabs on the issue, and not hesitate to pull the plug on even low-level gambling like keno, if anti-gambling interests warnings seem to be coming true.

Tom Osborne's high-profile involvement should guarantee that gambling continues to receive the scrutiny it demands.

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