Horsemen in Nebraska, once home to the legendary racetrack Aksarben (Nebraska spelled in reverse), are again teaming up with Ho-Chunk Inc. in efforts to allow expanded casino gambling, and possibly sports betting, at the state’s remaining thoroughbred tracks.
Ho-Chunk Inc. is the economic development arm of the Winnebago Indian Tribe
An agreement between the two groups announced last week seeks to place the issue on the 2020 state ballot through a statewide petition effort.
If approved by voters, casino gambling would be allowed at tracks and their simulcast outlets in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus, South Sioux City and possibly Hastings.
The exact language of the initiative has not been revealed, but is likely to include sports betting.
Ho-Chunk and the local horsemen’s group say they believe estimates that say Nebraskans wager more than $500 million a year at casinos in Iowa and other surrounding states. They argue that proceeds and tax revenue from such betting should remain in the state.
Three years ago, a previous drive to get a gambling measure before voters fell about 40,000 signatures short of qualifying for the election ballot.
Of the six remaining thoroughbred meets in Nebraska, only Fonner Park in Grand Island, with 31 scheduled live race days, runs an extended race meet.
The state currently has only tribal casinos with limited gambling options on Indian reservation land.