Voters in Nebraska will have a chance to weigh-in on legal casino gambling at horse racing tracks. The primary track would be Atokad Park in South Sioux City. However, other tracks in-state will be impacted by the outcome of this special vote. Atokad Park is owned and operated by Ho-Chunk, Inc. The company’s CEO is Lance Morgan. Nation Ho-Chunk acts as an economic development entity for the Winnebago Tribe of Native American Indians. It is also the primary supporter of the three measures on the Nebraska ballot this year.
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Horse racing is the oldest form of legal gambling in this state. This goes back to constitutional amendments in 1934. Racetracks in Nebraska flourished over the years. However, the horse racing industry took a turn for the worse throughout the 1990’s.
It was first impacted by legal riverboat casinos in neighboring Iowa. Land-based casinos followed to further cut into revenue. One of the biggest tracks in Nebraska closed its doors in 1995. This was the Ak-Sar-Ben racing venue in Omaha.
Lynne McNally is the executive vice president of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA). A statement on the issue pointed out that:
“Gambling across the river put Ak-Sar-Ben out of business. That’s the sole reason. In an ironic turn of events, casino gaming put Ak-Sar-Ben out of business. But casino gaming will bring the horseracing industry back to what it was when Ak-Sar-Ben was around.”
If voters are in favor of three different ballot measures, it would pave the way for casino’s at the state’s tracks. Along with Atokad Park, there are five other racetracks throughout Nebraska. Combined, this does have the ability to save the horse racing industry.
This effort has been years in the making. Come election day on Nov. 3, ballot initiatives 429, 430, and 431 will decide the immediate future. Ho-Chunk, Inc. has led the way from the very start.
The company purchased the shuttered Atokad racing venue in 2016. The plan was to invest another $30 million for a casino and events center. Initiative 429 would amend the state’s constitution. This would allow casinos at state racetracks with an existing gaming license.
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The other two initiatives cover regulatory and authority issues dealing with the collection of gaming taxes.
Ho-Chunk has partnered with HBPA to further this cause. This collaboration included petitions to move this issue to a general vote. The effort back in 2016 failed to garner the necessary support . At that time, thousands of signatures were rejected by the acting Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale.
Ho-Chunk backed an effort that generated a poll on the issue. The results stated that 64 percent of voters supported the change to the constitution. The main issue of lost gaming revenue is at the heart of the support for state casinos. Industry sources close to PlaySlots4RealMoney.com estimate a total loss of $500 million in gambling revenue to border states per year.
There is still some strong opposition towards casino gambling. Yet, Ho-Chunk and others remain optimistic for a favorable outcome.
• La source: Nebraska ballot measures would allow casino at South Sioux City’s Atokad track From Siouxcityjournal.com On October 31, 2020.