Senator Briese looking to limit Nebraska casino licenses
After successfully pushing for the legalization of retail sports betting and casino gaming in Nebraska, Senator Tom Briese is now seeking to introduce measures that would limit the number of casino licenses in the state.
The lawmaker’s proposal comes just two months after Governor Pete Ricketts signed legislation authorizing the introduction of Las-Vegas style casino gambling at the state’s racetracks into law. The market was approved by voters through ballot action in November 2020.
Since the legalization of the industry, five cities have applied for licenses to set up horse race tracks with the hope of offering casino gaming: Bellevue, Gering, Norfolk, North Platte, and York. The proposed race tracks will join the existing six licensees in South Sioux City, Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, and Columbus if they are approved, bringing the total number of thoroughbred horse racing venues in the state to 11.
It is this interest from developers that has prompted Sen. Briese to consider putting a cap on the number of casinos the state can have. The legislator plans to introduce the measure in January.
‘Multiple avenues’ towards casino limits
In a statement to the press regarding the proposal, Briese disclosed that he’s considering several approaches as he seeks to introduce the legislation. One of the avenues is stating a definite limit on the number of permits the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission can issue.
“There really are multiple avenues that I could take in that regard,” he said.
“It could be an outright cap on the number, we could limit the number of casinos based on geographical proximity to existing casinos, or we might require a minimum number of races to be conducted at the tracks before they could be issued a license.”
However, there’s plenty of time for Briese and other lawmakers to weigh their options and settle on the best approach, given that the next legislative session will start in January.
NHBPA backing Nebraska casino limits
Among those who support Sen. Briese’s proposal to limit the number of casinos in the Cornhusker State is the Vice President of the Nebraska Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA), Lynne McNally.
Although the NHBPA was among the biggest proponents of legalizing casino gaming in Nebraska, the group has come out strongly to oppose proposals for new racetracks across the state.
In her statement about Sen. Briese’s proposal, McNally said: “Part of our commitment during the campaign was not only to keep the money in Nebraska but that these facilities were not going to be next to every church and school in every county of the state. So, we feel strongly that they should be limited.”
The statement reiterates the Association’s comments at a Racing and Gaming Commission meeting two weeks ago.
During the meeting, the NHBPA expressed concerns over the addition of more racing facilities in the proposed cities, particularly Bellevue and York. In its argument, the Association said that establishing new racetracks in the two cities would dilute the market and weaken existing facilities.
The NHBPA is a part-owner of Horsemen’s Park in Omaha.