December 18, 2014

Governor says veto on historic horse racing was a close call (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman addresses news media at Capitol

Gov. Dave Heineman says it was a close call, but, in the end, decided that a bill allowing Nebraskans to lay down bets on historic horse racing would expand gambling in the state.

Heineman says the pull of jobs made this decision difficult. Proponents of LB 806 promoted it as a jobs bill and denied it would expand gambling in the state.

The bill would allow horse tracks to install video machines to play previously-run horse races, with enough detail disguised that the bettor would not recognize the race. It required a new horse track to be built in Lincoln and included requirements that the number of live races or the purses increase.

Heineman called the bill problematic in his veto message. He stated it was not clear such a form of wagering is permissible by the Nebraska Constitution.

“This legislation contradicts the spirit of the live horse racing provisions enacted by the voters in the Nebraska Constitution and expands gambling beyond what has currently been authorized. For these reasons, I respectfully urge you to sustain my vetoes of LB 806 & LB 806A,” Heineman wrote in his veto message to the Unicameral.

Heineman tells reporters that as he studied the measure, he couldn’t overcome a conclusion on the bill.

“It’s a new form of gambling. It’s expanded gambling and therefore, I vetoed it,” Heineman says.

LB 806 passed the legislature on a 26-to-18 vote. Five senators declined to vote on the bill. The vote falls four short of what the legislature needs to override a veto.

Still, Senator Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha, the bill sponsor, says he’ll ask fellow senators to override the veto.

“We’ll make our case,” Lautenbaugh tells reporters. “I mean, you come this far, you don’t just walk away. It’s an important bill.”

Lautenbaugh predicts dire consequences should an override attempt fail. He says without historic horse racing, the downward spiral of the horse racing industry here will continue.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]