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Expanded gambling, whatever the form, remains a bad idea
We can't remember the specifics, but there was surely a comedy sketch somewhere during the early days of videotape about two guys watching a football game between their two favorite teams.
One remark leads to another, resulting in a wager over the outcome of the contest. The clock runs out, money changes hands and, of course, the audience laughs when the pair turn out to have been watching a videotape.
Such a scenario comes to mind when one hears about LR41CA on the Nov. 4 ballot, which will allow four horse tracks in Nebraska to take bets on "historical horse races."
No, it won't be like the two doofuses on the couch.
Instead, it will be the more familiar one-armed bandit, a slot machine, with a tiny image of horses running in one corner of the screen.
Billed as a way to rescue the horse racing industry, which has been declining for years in Nebraska, the ballot measure won't actually accomplish that, but will open the state to an unlimited number of slot machines, called the "crack cocaine" of gambling.
And, because slot machines will be legal in Nebraska, Indian casinos will be able to exploit a loophole for them to install slots as well.
That would put us on an even keel with adjoining states like Iowa, Kansas, Colorado and South Dakota, but do we want to get into that boat?
Embezzlement fueled by gambling has already made itself felt in our corner of the state, and the anti-gambling group Gambling with the Good Life points to $120,000 involving a Douglas County official, almost half a million from the Omaha Archdiocese in two separate cases, nearly $100,000 by a Council Bluffs attorney, $13,000 by a Geneva hospital CFO and others.
In a survey of 400 Gamblers Anonymous members, 57 percent admitted stealing to finance their gambling addiction, averaging $135,000 per individual.
According to national studies, for every $1 gained in gambling revenue it costs a city $3 in social costs, and a study by Deloitte & Touche concluded South Dakota has fewer jobs, loses $100 million in economic activity and suffers 4,000 more crimes each year because of neighborhood slots.
"Gambling is a tax on ignorance," said billionaire Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. "I find it socially revolting when the government preys on the ignorance of its citizenry."
Joining him in opposition to expanded gambling are Tom and Nancy Osborne, Gov. Dave Heineman, Attorney General Jon Bruning, U.S. Reps. Jeff Fortenberry and Lee Terry, Pete Ricketts, Bishop Joseph Lucas and every major religious denomination in the state.
Our voters turned down casino initiatives in 1938, 1990 and 2004, and video keno in 2006.
Nebraska earned its reputation as home to hard-working, honest citizens who pride themselves in turning in an honest days work for a day's pay.
Expanded gambling of any form, with its deceptive promise of getting rich quick, made to society's most vulnerable, should be rejected again.