Are the video terminals used for betting on so-called "historic horseracing" really slot machines, or not? That was among questions discussed by Nebraska lawmakers Wednesday, along with what to do about juvenile justice.
The historic horseracing debate has cropped up repeatedly in the last few years – but this time, there are some new wrinkles. The debate is about whether to allow betting, via video terminals at racetracks, on races that have already been run. Before the video plays, bettors can get information similar to that contained in a racing form, for example, on the previous performance of the horses involved. But other information that might disclose what particular race someone is betting on is supposed to be removed.
One new wrinkle this year is that part of what’s proposed is a constitutional amendment, subject to a vote of the people. Omaha Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh, sponsor of the proposal, says he’s responding to criticism the state constitution doesn’t allow betting on previously-run races. "What it would simply provide is that the races can have been run at a different time and wagering would still be allowed on them in the pari-mutuel method," Lautenbaugh said. In the pari-mutuel method, people essentially bet against each other, as opposed to betting against the house.
Omaha Sen. Beau McCoy denounced Lautenbaugh’s proposal as expanded gambling that could threaten the state’s quality of life. Critics say the video terminals can be programmed to show just snippets of the races, and can be played quickly, like slot machines.
Omaha Sen. Bob Krist fired back at that. "I’m tired of being lied to by the folks who come into General Affairs Committee and say ‘It’s a slot machine. It quacks like a goose…’ or whatever they say. I want to evaluate whether or not that machine is indeed a pari-mutuel device, or not."
Krist, who said he hasn’t decided which way to vote, arranged for a machine to be brought into the Capitol for senators to watch and make up their own minds.
Meanwhile, Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers threatened to filibuster against the proposal, which he said preys on people’s weakness. "I am prepared to keep us here for eight hours on this proposal by myself. So I don’t particularly care which direction the pro-gambling forces take,"
Lawmakers adjourned for the day after about two hours of debate. Speaker Greg Adams said he anticipates more debate Thursday morning before a test vote that could indicate which way things will go.
Wednesday afternoon, the Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on a package of proposals to reform the juvenile justice system. Among them was a bill by Lincoln Senator Amanda McGill. It would tighten restrictions on when law enforcement personnel can take a young person into custody. Senator Al Davis of Hyannis questioned McGill about taking away the ability of police and others to use their judgment. "It looks like you’re taking out a lot of the ‘mays.’…Tell me the reason why," Davis said.
"The problem we’re facing and I’m trying to address is, we are right now taking too many children out of the home," said McGill. "And law enforcement really has an attitude of ‘If there’s any chance that something could be going on here, we’re going to take him out of the home, just to be sure."
No one testified against the bill. Committee Chairman Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha said he hopes to incorporate ideas from that and other bills into a juvenile justice reform package for consideration later this year.
Editor’s Note: You can see video of Sen. Krist demonstrating the video racing terminals on the NET News Tumblr at netnewsnebraska.tumblr.com