- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska racetracks are one step closer to allowing bets on previously run horse races, after a vote in the Legislature.

A constitutional amendment by Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha would allow voters to decide if Nebraska should license and regulate wagering on the races.

The measure advanced Wednesday on a vote of 25-18, but faces one final vote. The issue would appear on the ballot in November if approved. Lawmakers first debated the legislation last year.

Lautenbaugh said the effort would save jobs in the horse racing industry. Opponents said it represents expanded gambling.

“It’s important for the tracks that we do have,” Lautenbaugh said.

Greg Hosch, general manager at Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, also said this bill would create jobs.

“We’re all about live racing in the state and with live racing comes nothing but jobs and more jobs,” he said.

An additional source of revenue is needed to construct facilities for live racing, he said.

Sen. Beau McCoy of Omaha voted against advancing the measure. McCoy doesn’t believe that this change is a type of pari-mutuel gambling, which is allowed by the state’s constitution.

“This is a burgeoning court and legal issue and I would humbly submit that we are setting ourselves to spend taxpayer dollars defending this in court if this advances and the people vote on this,” he said.

Hosch believes this type of wagering is legal. Pari-mutuel betting involves betting against other bettors, he said. Machines that run previously run horse races also use a pool, he said.

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins voted against the measure. If there was a clear and honest resolution on expanding gambling presented to the people he would support letting Nebraskans vote on it, he said. In 2004, Nebraska voters rejected an effort to allow casino gambling.

“Don’t bring me a slot machine and tell me it’s a horse,” he said.

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha also voted against the amendment. Gambling is addictive, he said.

“I know people who have been ruined by gambling,” he said.

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