Medical Pot, 3 Casino Gambling Initiatives Submit Signatures

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska voters will likely get the chance to vote in November on legalizing medical marijuana and allowing casinos at horse racing tracks as organizers of petition drives yesterday submittted far more signatures than would be needed to put those issues on the ballot.

Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana initiative campaig filed some 182,000 signatures with the secretary of state’s office – about a third more than the required 121,000 – while Keep the Money in Nebraska turned in 475,000 in signatures for three gambling petitions.

A gambling initiative changing the state constitution to allow for casino gambling at race tracks had 200,000 signatures, one changing state law to allow the casinos drew 135-to-140,000 names, and one taxing gambling revenues at 20% with 70% of that revenue going to property tax relief had 140,000.

Local election officials in all 93 counties will now begin the verification process, checking signatures to make sure they belong to registered Nebraska voters and don’t include duplicate signings.

The Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association organized the gambling drives along with Ho-Chunk Inc, the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe.

Benevolent President Bob Moser says Nebraska’s losing more than $350 million a year to neighboring states that allow casinos and that “It’s time to stop looking foolish and keep the money in Nebraska.

Supporters say casino gambling at the state’s 6 licensed horse tracks would bring in about $45-million dollar a year for property tax relief, offering a “real solution” for the problem of “outrageous property taxes in Nebraska.

The last gambling measure to make the ballot was 14 years ago, adding slot machines at keno parlors, and it lost better than 60-40.

Nate Grasz of the Nebraska Family Alliance saying gambling opponents are ready to fight the measures if any or all get on the ballot, calling casinos “bad for families and bad for businesses,” especially at a time when both are reeling financially from the coronavirus pandemic’s impact.

Grasz says “the last thing we need right now is for casinos to come in right now and increase the heartaches and financial burdens that families and businesses are already facing.”