Gaming constitutional amendment proposed

The General Affairs Committee heard testimony Feb. 10 on a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize games of chance in Nebraska.

Sen. Justin Wayne
Sen. Justin Wayne

Under current law, games of chance other than the state lottery and certain charitable enterprises are illegal and the Nebraska Constitution prohibits the Legislature from authorizing additional games of chance.

LR295CA, introduced by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, would allow voters to change the state’s constitution to enable the Legislature to authorize, regulate and tax such games. If passed, the resolution would add the question to the 2020 general election ballot.

Wayne said Nebraska suffers from the ills of gambling addiction when citizens travel to Iowa, South Dakota and other states that allow wagering on games of chance, but does not earn state revenue from regulated gambling that could address those issues.

“Let’s put it to the people,” Wayne said.

Jim Schultz, vice chair of the Libertarian Party of Nebraska, testified in support of the proposal. He said gambling bans do not work and asked lawmakers to, “take a hard look at the laws which criminalize voluntary interactions between consenting adults.”

Nate Grasz of the Nebraska Family Alliance testified against the proposal. Government should protect citizens from harmful activities like gambling, he said.

“In order for the state to win, it’s our own citizens that must lose,” Grasz said.

Economist Loretta Fairchild also spoke against the resolution. She challenged lawmakers to cite a state with legalized gambling that saw its revenues rise enough to offset the negative effects of gambling.

“You’ve never heard the proponents [of gambling legalization] say ‘Let’s copy x-state. They’ve got wonderful results,’” Fairchild said. “Do you think they would be keeping that a secret if there were a clear case of solid, ongoing streams of blessings?”

The committee took no immediate action on the measure.

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