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Nebraska Lawmakers Discouraged Over Gambling Bill Defeat

Gambling is being hailed as the answer in many states to increased budget deficits. Dozens of states around the country are using new casinos and lottery games to help fill shortcomings in their budgets. Nebraska will not be one of those states this year.

Another gambling expansion bill has been defeated in the Nebraska Legislature, and now lawmakers are concerned that anti-gaming groups are keeping the state from rebounding from the economic recession. The latest bill would have eased the restrictions placed on gambling, and, according to proponents, would have provided economic relief.

"(Gambling opponents) are persistent," said Senator Paul Schumacher, who introduced the bill that was defeated this week. "While the ordinary people who support it don't have lobbyists out in the rotunda. But this issue is not going away."

The issue is one that has divided Legislature's all across the US. Anti-gaming groups always rely on the tested contention that increased gambling brings increased crime. Pro-gaming lawmakers have started to break down that theory, conducting studies to show how much gaming can help a community as opposed to being a detriment to society.

Opponents in Nebraska were able to convince their fellow lawmakers to defeat the gaming bill by pointing to the crime that would come with the new gaming options. Pro-gaming legislators argued that the regulation of gambling would actually serve as a deterrent to the crime that currently exists in the gambling underworld.

One opponent of gambling, Pat Loontjer, of Gambling with the Good Life, has even gone as far as to say that neighboring states are trying to lure Nebraska into the gaming industry.

"They play the jealousy game," said Loontjer. "They've picked us off, state by state by state. We just say by the grace of God, Nebraska has been spared."

Nebraska lawmakers have now tried unsuccessfully several times over the past few years to amend the state constitution to allow more gambling. Each time, the legislation being proposed has been rejected, but it has not deterred Sen. Schumacher and other politicians who see the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and increased job creation that could come from the new forms of gambling.

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