General Affairs

Racetrack casino regulation updates clear first round

A bill that would update Nebraska’s gaming regulations for horse racetrack casinos and the commission that governs them was amended and advanced from general file March 29.

Sen. Tom Briese
Sen. Tom Briese

LB876, introduced by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, would change several provisions of the Nebraska Racetrack Gaming Act, including requiring racetracks to hold a minimum of five live racing days a year by Jan. 1, 2026. Prior to that, the bill would require at least one live racing day during a licensee’s first three years of operation.

As introduced, the bill would have prohibited a racetrack from being located within 50 miles of another racetrack. Tracks that existed on Nov. 1, 2020, in Adams, Dakota, Douglas, Hall, Lancaster and Platte counties, would have been allowed within 50 miles of another racetrack operating games of chance.

A General Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 30-0, replaced the bill and instead would allow an existing racetrack to apply to the commission to move to another county in Nebraska that does not have a racetrack following issuance of a market analysis and socioeconomic impact studies.

It also would prohibit issuance of new licenses until the commission conducts a statewide horse racing market analysis, a study of the potential casino gaming market and a socioeconomic impact study of horse racing and casino gaming statewide and in each county that has a licensed racetrack. The three studies must be completed by Jan. 1, 2025.

Among other provisions, the amendment would increase the duration of a horse racing license from one to five years and require tracks to hold at least five racing days and 50 live races annually by Jan. 1, 2026, and 15 racing days and 120 races annually by Jan. 1, 2031. It also would establish a schedule for tracks built after the bill’s operative date.

Non-compliant tracks would be forced to close until the commission determines that the situation has been corrected.

Finally, the amendment incorporated provisions of Briese’s LB877, which require the State Racing and Gaming Commission to meet at least eight days each year and would require racetracks to pay the commission an increasing percentage of proceeds. Through June 30, 2023, racetracks would pay 0.5 percent of the gross sum of parimutuel wagers placed at the track during the previous calendar year, 1 percent annually from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024, and 2 percent annually going forward.

Briese said the amended bill would strengthen the state’s horse racing industry and limit the number of casinos.

“This will really force our racing industry to ramp up,” Briese said. “We think it will be good for industry, good for agriculture … and good for Nebraska.”

La Vista Sen. John Arch supported the bill. He acknowledged that there was disagreement among lawmakers and industry representatives about the bill’s provisions, but said LB876 as amended was a fair compromise.

“I think we landed at a good place,” Arch said.

Lawmakers advanced LB876 to select file on a 34-0 vote.

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