- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska voters would get another chance to legalize casinos under a proposal a legislative committee heard Monday.

The General Affairs Committee heard testimony on the proposed constitutional amendment, which was introduced by Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber.

The measure would put the proposal on the November ballot. A city or county would have to receive voter approval to have casinos.

Karpisek has introduced other gambling-related measures in the past. This year is his last year in the Legislature due to term-limits. It’s time for an up-or-down vote on the issue, he said.

Nebraska voters previously rejected casinos in 2004. Nebraska allows keno, horse racing and has a lottery.

Seventy percent of Nebraska’s population is within an hour’s drive of a casino, Karpisek said. The state is losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year across the border, Karpisek said.

Half of the taxes from casino gambling would go to property tax relief, one-fourth to K-12 education, 12 percent to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 12 percent for water projects funding, and 1 percent to the Compulsive Gamblers Assistance Fund.

“Here is an idea to fix some of these problems or at least help,” he said.

Pat Loontjer, executive director of Gambling with the Good Life, which opposes any expansion of gambling, testified that the amendment would set up a “civil war” within the state. If one county approves gambling, others will seek to as well and it will only expand from there, she said.

“You’re going to have counties against counties,” she said.

The social costs of casinos would outweigh the benefits, she said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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The measure is LR416CA

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