A constitutional amendment to allow Nebraskans to bet on so-called historic horse races advances in the legislature after the Unicameral votes to end a filibuster against the measure.
Lawmakers first voted 33-13 to end an eight hour filibuster of the measure that stretched over four legislative days. They then gave initial approval to the amendment on a 29-19 vote.
While LR 41CA received just enough votes to end the filibuster, it fell one vote shy of what it will need to win approval in the legislature and be placed on the ballot in November of 2014.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha has been the primary opponent of the measure. He told colleagues that gambling interests will soon work to do away with the requirement that the video machines displaying historic races be placed at tracks running live horse races. He pointed out during debate that a track recently ran a 19-second race to meet the technical qualifications.
“Did you hear me? That’s what these honest people were doing. Falsifying, fabricating, playing a fast shuffle on the public by running a race when there was snow in other places or it was cold that lasted 19 seconds so that they could qualify for having had live racing,” Chambers stated.
The sponsor of the measure, Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, a senator from Omaha, rejected Chambers’ assertion.
“It is no one’s intent to have these terminals at anywhere other than licensed race tracks where racing takes place. The whole point of this is to promote live racing,” Lautenbaugh responded.
Supporters of the measure say it is needed to keep live horse racing viable in Nebraska. They claim the terminals will generate enough revenue to keep horse tracks afloat.
Opponents, though, equate the terminals with slot machines and say the measure simply expands gambling in the state.
That argument persuaded Gov. Dave Heineman to veto a similar measure last year. The legislature fell just short of the votes needed to override the veto. An override isn’t a factor this year. As a constitutional amendment, the measure goes directly to the ballot.
Under historic horse racing, video terminals display games with enough details disguised as to conceal the specific race. General information is provided about the horses and the jockeys.