Legendary University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne had things to say about gambling on Monday and those things were not good. The College Football Hall of Fame inductee was on hand for a rally hosted by Gambling With the Good Life, an anti-gambling organization, to speak out against possible gambling expansion in Nebraska.
Nebraska is one of ten states without a casino, though it does have a state lottery and racetracks that permit betting. In July, however, a pro-gambling group called Keep the Money in Nebraska gathered about 475,000 signatures to get three referenda on the November ballot with the goal to legalize casino gambling.
The primary measure, Initiative 429, would amend the state’s Constitution to permit racetracks to offer games of chance, effectively turning them into casinos. Initiative 430 would simply create a regulatory commission to set the rules and manage casino gambling, and Initiative 431 (I’m sensing a pattern) would implement a 20 percent tax on gambling revenue.
It’s all or nothing with the three Initiatives. If residents don’t approve one of them, gambling expansion is nixed.
At the rally, Osborne, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms in the early 2000’s, spoke out against the measures, saying, “Most studies will show that for every one dollar you get you lose between three and four dollars in social costs.”
“And the people that bear the greatest burden of this problem will be the families, the spouses and the children of those who have a gambling problem because they pay the greatest price,” he added.
While nowadays it is typically Republican politicians that oppose gambling (I said typically, not always), Osborne, himself a Republican, was joined by former Nebraska Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Kerry.
Kerry was concerned that during the pandemic, those who could least afford to lose money gambling might be the more likely to go to a casino in the hopes of a big score.
“How do you feel about taking money from people who can least afford it under what I think is unrealistic promise that somehow it’s going to get distributed back to them through public programs?” he asked.
Keep the Money’s Lynne McNally, however, said that social issues are already there and most Nebraskans have fairly easy access to a casino already, so the state should be proactive in trying to help people who need help.
“Nebraskans are gambling today,” she said. “If they are saying we have all these social costs, we have these social costs today with no way to address them.”
According to numbers put out by pro-gambling groups, 70 percent of Nebraska’s population lives within 60 miles of a casino. Those casinos, however, are in bordering states, which means when Nebraskans visit, they are taking money out of the state. Gambling proponents say the state is losing $400 million per year from people leaving Nebraska to gamble, so it is time to keep those dollars in-state.