Bill allowing betting without live horseracing advances

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May 8, 2011 - 7:00pm

People could bet on horseracing in a location where no actual horses race for the next 15 years, under a bill advancing in the Legislature.

Until now, betting on races televised from other locations, known as simulcasting, has been allowed only at tracks that offer live racing at least one day a year. But that could change, under a proposal by Sen. Russ Karpicek of Wilber. Karpicek said his bill would allow betting in Lincoln for up to 15 years after the existing racetrack at the former state fairgrounds closes next year.

"Lincoln will have to have a new licensed racetrack enclosure put up before they can simulcast again," Karpicek said. Now when we talk about an enclosure, it just doesn't mean the grandstands, it means the track, it means the whole thing. The reason why I am trying to make it so they would not have to run at least one day is because of the timeline involved, in one year or from today forward, until 2013, how do they get get an up and running racetrack?"
Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy offered an amendment to require at least one day of live racing a year at locations where simulcast betting is allowed. McCoy said to do otherwise would set a questionable precedent.
"To for the very first time allow simulcast racing at a facility with a track that's not used with no live horseracing is a major policy change," he said. Whether it's helping the Lincoln horseracing community or not, I don't know how you couldn't look at that and not say That's expanded gambling.'"

McCoy's amendment attracted 18 votes, with 21 senators opposed. The bill then got second round approval on a voice vote. Supporters said it would be up to the state Racing Commission to define what constitutes a licensed racetrack enclosure in Lincoln where betting could be conducted. Nebraska Racing commission Executive Director Tom Sage said the commission is in the process of evaluating what that means.

The bill would also allow tracks outside of Lincoln to contract with each other to run their share of live racing days, so long as they continue to run at least one.

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