Donations exceeding $250,000 have enabled backers of expanded gambling in Nebraska to launch their initiative petition drive, and according to the first campaign finance report belonging to the petition group, the majority of the money has come from Ho-Chunk Inc., the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s economic development wing.

Tuesday, Keep the Money in Nebraska announced they are ready to hit the pavement to obtain enough signatures to give Nebraskans the opportunity to vote on expanded gambling proposals that would allow wagering at the state’s racetracks and help save its horse racing industry. The group’s spokesman, former state Senator Scott Lauttenbaugh of Omaha said that in recent years the state has lost billions of dollars to neighboring state’s due to people leaving Nebraska looking for gambling options. One petition would create an amendment that would allow games of chance at approved locations, while the other petitions propose laws that would allow regulated gambling at licensed racetracks, and govern the way tax revenues from gambling would be divided.

Opposed to the new gambling proposals, the executive director of the Nebraska Family Alliance, Rev. Al Riskowski, said that while nothing has been organized yet he expects his group will continue to successfully fight against the expansion. Also opposed to the proposal is Governor Pete Ricketts who was a board member of an anti-gambling group for 10 years.

According to a filing with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission, three groups including the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, owners of the WinnaVegas Casino in the Iowa portion of its reservation, the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, and Omaha Exposition & Racing have contributed to the campaign. Ho-Chunk’s CEO Lance Morgan estimates it will cost approximately $1 million to collect enough signatures needed to take the issue to vote. Valid signatures will need to be collected from 10 percent of registered voters for the issue to make the November 2016 ballot. The signatures need to be collected and submitted by July 7.

Fonner Park in Grand Island, Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, Columbus Exposition, Lincoln Race Course in Lincoln, and Fairplay Park in Hastings and Racing in Columbus comprise the racetracks licensed in Nebraska. Currently, there is gambling in Omaha but it is limited to slot machines and keno. Residents that want more gambling choices need to leave the state and travel to the closest option Council Bluffs, Iowa, where casinos are legal and numerous gambling businesses operate.

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