State Senator Russ Karpisek of Wilber wants Nebraskans to decide whether they want casino gambling within the state, as he claims the Husker State is losing an enormous amount of potential revenue just across the Missouri River.
“There’s a lot of people going to Iowa,” Karpisek says. “If they have a problem, they’re still Nebraska citizens. We try to take care of that. We have the lottery, Keno, church bingo, which is probably my favorite, we have an enormous amount of illegal betting going on.”
Karpisek’s bill (LR 416-CA) would direct the legislature to authorize casino gaming. Then, a local governing body could place a measure on the local ballot for voters to decide whether a casino would be located in their area.
His plan would have 50% of the state’s share of revenue from casino gambling go toward property tax relief, 25% to elementary and secondary education, 12% to the Game and Parks Commission, 12% to the Department of Natural Resources for water funding, and 1% to the compulsive gamblers assistance fund.
“We’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year right across the border,” Karpisek says. “Close to 70% of Nebraska’s population is within one hour’s driving of a casino.”
The organization Gambling With the Good Life opposes Karpisek’s proposed constitutional amendment. Spokeswoman Pat Loontjer says they’re against expanded gambling in Nebraska.
“It’s going to set up a civil war within the state,” Loontjer says. “You’re going to have counties against counties. If Douglas County got the license, there’s going to be Sarpy and it’s just going to expand, exactly as it happened in Iowa.”
Loontjer questions whether casino gambling in Iowa accomplished what it set out to do.
“The promise was that it was going to take care of their educational needs and it was going to bring tourism. It did neither,” Loontjer says. “What it did do was start this fight amongst the counties and now Iowa has 20-plus land-based casinos, no more riverboats.”
Karpisek’s proposal does not call for a specific number of casinos, but leaves that up to the free market.
Loontjer points out, Nebraskans rejected casinos through their own votes in 1996, 2004 and 2006.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice