Special poker license bill stalls

After six hours of discussion, an attempt to force a vote on a bill that would grant the state taxing and regulatory authority over community card games failed during general file debate Jan. 14.

LB619, as introduced last session by O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson, would authorize the state Liquor Control Commission to oversee licensing for two types of poker games—draw and community card games. The bill defines community card games as those, such as Texas Hold’em, in which a player combines the cards he or she is holding with community cards that all players share.

Larson acknowledged that a recent state attorney general’s opinion concluded that draw poker is a game of chance. In response, he offered an amendment to a pending General Affairs Committee amendment to limit the bill’s provisions only to community card games such as Texas Hold’em.

Larson said such games are games of skill—rather than games of chance—and therefore would not violate the Nebraska Constitution, which prohibits the Legislature from authorizing additional games of chance.

The amendment failed 14-16 during debate Jan. 13. Larson offered a motion to reconsider that vote, which failed 19-22 on Jan. 14.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers offered an amendment to the committee amendment, which would strike a section of the bill stating that the Legislature deems poker to be a game of skill. He said that the assertion was not supported by data or research.

The amendment failed on a 12-0 vote.

Larson then filed a series of procedural motions to end debate on the bill until later this session, finally offering a motion to invoke cloture—or cease debate and force a vote on the bill and any pending amendments.

The motion failed on a vote of 16-29.

A failed cloture motion prevents further debate on a bill for the day. LB619 is unlikely to be scheduled for further debate this session.

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