State lawmakers have authorized a tax on video machines they suspect are illegal.
“That is as backwards of a way of going about doing things as I’ve ever heard in this place,” stated Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha during legislative floor debate on LB 70.
McCoy told colleagues it doesn’t make sense to impose an occupation task on video machines that are likely illegal.
He called the legislation offensive on two fronts.
“One, it’s a new tax. Two, it’s expanded gambling. So it fails on both accounts as far as I’m concerned.”
LB 70 breezed to passage in the Unicameral, despite the questions surrounding the measure, on a 35-11 vote.
Under the bill, operators of touch-screen games and similar devices would be taxed unless the operator can prove they’re not being used for illegal gambling. A state Supreme Court ruling first raised questions about whether the computer-based games violate Nebraska gambling laws.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus, suspects they are illegal and has argued that the tax will help the state ferret out which are operating illegally.
Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion questioned Schumacher about the strategy behind his bill.
“Why would we want to tax something that’s illegal?” Kintner asked Schumacher during debate.
“As a practical matter, it’s the only way to get rid of the machines,” Schumacher replied.
“But doesn’t that open the door, doesn’t that strengthen the case to say they’re illegal as they’re trying to legalize it?” Kintner asked.
“Nobody can legalize an illegal gambling machine in Nebraska,” Schumacher said. “That’s beyond the power of the legislature.”
Sen. Mike Groene of North Platte didn’t see much sense in the strategy of taxing them out of Nebraska.
“Let’s just confiscate them, if they’re illegal,” Groene said. “Let’s get them off the counters and the bars.”