Keep the Money in Nebraska, a pro-gambling group, has filed petitions for a ballot initiative to get casinos at horse racing tracks in Nebraska.
Scott Lautenbaugh, the group’s spokesman, says the three petitions have approximately 310,000 signatures total. Secretary of State John Gale estimated about 280,000 valid signatures would be needed.
Registered voters in all 93 counties signed to allow a vote on casinos since petitions began circulating last October.
“So far, on just the petition drive itself, we’ve expended approximately $1.2 million,” Lautenbaugh tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Just organizing the effort, paying the circulators, the logistics of it.”
Lautenbaugh says he doesn’t know if the opponents will bring a legal challenge, if the petitions are verified.
He says the campaign to persuade voters to support the gambling expansion will focus on keeping tax revenue here.
“Seventy-five percent to the state, 25 percent to the locality where the casino would be located – it would make a difference as far as how the legislature chooses to apportion the money,” Lautenbaugh says. “It could go for property tax relief, which we never seem to have enough money for or roads funding, which we always struggle with as well.”
If signatures are verified, the election this fall will decide a constitutional amendment to allow casinos at horse racing tracks, and two laws to regulate and tax them.
“People in Nebraska want to gamble. They’re currently going to all of the surrounding states, as it’s all around us,” Lautenbaugh says. “The only thing we don’t have in Nebraska is the revenue. So, we are shooting ourselves in the foot by letting the status quo continue, and I think that’s why people have been so receptive to our message.”
The secretary of state’s office is sorting the petitions and the county election offices must verify the signatures are from registered voters in each county.
The process should be completed in early September.