The 2012 Session in the Legislature is moving along quickly as we finished two-thirds of the 60-day session last week. We will begin discussing budget bills this week along with continued work on priority bills. In my letter today, I would like to touch on the gambling bills LB1067 and LB806.
First, LB1067, which sought to make changes to the speed and frequency in which Keno could be played in Nebraska came up early in the week and failed to advance. Currently, Keno is allowed to be played every five minutes. The original bill wanted to lower the threshold to one minute, but the committee sent LB1067 out with a committee amendment to change the threshold from one minute to three minutes.
I was concerned that LB1067 had the votes to pass, so I filed an amendment to require a vote of the people before the frequency of games could be sped up. My amendment failed, but so did the bill. LB1067 failed to advance with a 20-17-9 vote.
I led opposition to LB1067 because it continues to press for more and more ways to separate people from more of there discretionary income for nothing of value in return. Many of these people are the ones that can least afford spending more income on gambling. Our families have enough pressures these days without being tempted to spend more money on gambling.
Second, LB806 is seeking to allow parimutuel wagering on historic horse races on machines at horse tracks that resemble the speed and sounds of slot machines. This bill came up last Wednesday for debate with over a dozen amendments.
A committee amendment was adopted that made several changes to the bill. It took away the requirement for county board approval; it gives a share of .10 percent or .05 percent to the county, city, or both depending on the location of the track; and it changes how funds in the Historic Horse Racing Cash Fund are appropriated by eliminating appropriations to the Probation Program Cash Fund and the Violence Protection Cash Fund and instead appropriating money to Racing Commission Cash Fund for the equitable treatment of equine species along with the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.
LB806 has not advanced and I will not support its advancement. The machines that would be allowed in Nebraska through this bill have been seen as slots in other states and are a fast pace game where only a portion of a race is shown allowing for multiple races per minute. Proponents argue that it is not a slot machine because there is an element of skill; if there is any skill involved, it is very small.
I know that good people can arrive at different conclusions when it comes to gambling, but I cannot in good conscience support these bills. I have always been up front with my opposition to gambling and its expansion in Nebraska. Though Keno and horse racing may be considered a milder form of gambling, I saw no need for Nebraska to speed up gambling just to get more money out those who play it. I believe governments shouldn't be in the business of tempting and exploiting people out of their discretionary income, even if the revenue has good intentions. There are better ways of raising money without directly increasing social ills in our state.
Questions or Comments? Contact myself or my staff at Senator Mark R. Christensen, PO Box 94604, Lincoln, Nebraska 68509, 402-471-2805.