Nebraska Supreme Court Rules Gambling Questions Should Appear on Ballot

Sept. 10, 2020, 5:02 p.m. ·


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The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Thursday three gambling measures should appear on the ballot.

The gambling issue is presented in three parts: A state constitutional amendment to allow all forms of gambling within licensed racetracks, a law establishing a state gaming commission to regulate gambling, and a law to tax gambling revenue and distribute it.

Secretary of State Bob Evnen had ruled the measures should be kept off the ballot because they contained multiple subjects and were potentially confusing, but the Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision rejected those arguments, with the majority opinion saying, “We have repeatedly said that the right of initiative is precious to the people and one which the courts are zealous to preserve to the fullest tenable measure of spirit as well as letter,” adding Evnen had not shown why the measures should not be placed on the ballot.”

Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago tribe that financed the initiative campaign, hailed the decision.

“I’d have to say that I’m thrilled. We’ve been working on this for a couple of years. And you never know how these things go. But I think it’s a testament to democracy that the people will get to decide this issue, and I think it’s the right decision,” Morgan said.

Ho Chunk owns the Atokad racetrack in South Sioux City and would like to locate a casino there.

Meanwhile, Pat Loontjer of the anti-gambling group Gambling with the Good Life said she was disappointed in the decision. But Loontjer vowed to wage a campaign similar to those that defeated other expanded gambling initiatives in the past.

“There were so many things wrong with the petition, but now we’re going to have to face it on the ballot. We’ve defeated it twice on the ballot. It’s just a lot of work and it’s against a lot of money. So I’m certainly not looking forward to it. But you know, God’s given us the victory for 25 years. We’re not going to give up now,” Loontjer said.

Now the decision will be up to Nebraska voters.