Expanding Keno To Smart Phones With Payment By Card Or App Gets Unicameral Debate

     Cities that reap millions of dollars in tax revenue from keno bets implored Nebraska lawmakers at a legislative hearing Monday to let people play the game on their mobile phones and to pay for games with credit/debit cards or pay apps.

        The idea faced criticism from gambling opponents and was met with skepticism from some lawmakers who questioned whether expanding the game beyond its current paper-only form would make a difference. 

      Bellevue City Finance Director Richard Severson told lawmakers keno generated $7.5 million in local revenue over the last decade that city officials used to upgrade parks, fund domestic violence abuse programs and promote economic development. 

      Opponents said the measure expands gambling beyond what voters approved last year in passing a constitutional amendment allowing casinos at horse racing tracks. 

     The hearing was a response to the keno rules being added to a broader gambling bill earlier this month without a hearing first. That bill is awaiting second-round debate, when opponents could try again to take out the keno changes.

      Meanwhile, lawmakers gave 1st-round approval yesterday to a bill requiring Nebraska’s soon-to-open casinos to display human trafficking informational posters, a measure that seeks to help human trafficking victims. 

       Nebraska already mandates posters in rest stops and strip clubs, places advocates have identified as spots where human trafficking might take place. 

       The posters are written in English and Spanish and include a toll-free number where trafficking victims or people who suspect trafficking can call for help.