Petitioners Fail in attempt to Legalize Casinos and Marijuana Party in Nebraska

NebraskaThe state of Nebraska doesn’t look too kindly on gambling – at least not where there’s a significant element of chance involved. While it appeared that was about to change, thanks to a petition drive that raked in over 119,000 signatures from residents hoping to legalize casinos, it was confirmed Thursday that there weren’t enough “valid” signatures to get the measure on the November ballot.

A similar petition that sought to establish the Marijuana Party of Nebraska, which would have recognized the group – which supports legal marijuana, the promotion of hemp farming, and a host of other ideals similar to the Green Party – as a valid Presidential party, also failed.

However, all hope is not lost yet for supporters of casino style gambling in the state. Officials are still counting and validating signatures on another statutory initiative that seeks to permit casino games at race tracks.

Secretary of State John Gale made the announcements on Thursday, verifying that the initiative to legalize casinos on the November ballot has failed. As for turning the state’s tracks into racinos, he said “We expect that process to take a few more weeks.”

Gale had originally requested that counting and validation of signatures on the ‘legalize casinos’ petition – a constitutional amendment – be finalized first.

Another petition with statutory intent is also pending, which deals with the taxation of gaming revenue.

Not Enough Verified Signatures to Legalize Casinos

Getting a measure on the November ballot that would allow voters to decide whether or not to legalize casinos in Nebraska required a total of at least 117,188 signatures. Petitioners, who spent an estimated $1.4 billion on the campaign initiative as of July 26, were able to turn in 119,666 signatures. However, not nearly enough of them were verifiable.

According to Gale, 41,710 of the signatures were rejected for various reasons.

He confirmed that over 24,000 of them were denied because the signers were not registered in the county listed on their corresponding petition. Upwards of 4,600 signatures were determined to be duplicates, and another 3,000+ came from signers who were not registered to vote.

What Forms of Gambling are Legal / Illegal in Nebraska?

Forms of Legal and Illegal Gambling in NebraskaAccording to a Gambling FAQ on the Official Government Website of Nebraska, all forms of gambling were illegal up until 1934, when a constitutional amendment was passed to legalize parimutuel betting at horse races on enclosed tracks. Bingo was permitted, for charitable purposes, in 1958.

Then in 1967, another amendment provided regulation for “raffles, lotteries and gift enterprises for charitable and community betterment purposes.” Finally, in 1988, simulcasting of horse races was legalized for betting purposes.

Forms of illegal gambling include, well, just about everything else. Sports betting, slot machines, banked table games like blackjack and roulette, even Texas Hold’em poker tournaments are illegal, for the most part.

According to the laws of Nebraska, Chapter 28, Crimes and Punishments, poker tournaments are only legal when no monetary fee, or anything else of value (consideration), is charged for players to participate, AND no prize is awarded to the winner(s).

Games of skill, however – which specifically include (but may not be limited to) bowling, pool, and darts – can be played in tournament form, with a fee charged and prize awarded to the winner(s).

However if the game or contest is determined by chance, i.e., casino games, etc., then NO entry fee may be charged or no prizes may be awarded,” the government website states. It also stipulates that “non-participants can not wager on the outcome” either.

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