States warm to gambling

Nov 25, 2002 10:53 PM

   Nebraska, Idaho and Ohio are on the verge of doing a 180-degree turn and accepting gambling as a way to gain state revenue.

   The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, which has fought gaming for more than a decade, appears ready to give in due to a shift in public opinion.

   “I think we will be at the table with gambling interests to hammer out a casino proposal to submit to voters,” said Louis Burgher, C of C chairman.

   Casino gambling is offered across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A recent survey of 3,289 chamber members showed that 68.3 percent favored allowing casino gambling.

   Another Midwest state, Ohio, is debating putting video slots in racetracks. There is a bill in the Ohio legislature that would place slots at the tracks, while denying citizens the chance to place the proposal on the ballot.

   Ohio voters rejected casino gambling measures in 1990 and 1996. State lawmakers say the bill will have a hard time passing the Senate.

   Not the case in Idaho, where the state Board of Canvassers last week certified voter approval for the Indian gaming initiative.

   Gov. Dirk Kempthorne signed the proclamation in Boise, putting the new law into effect.

   The tribes spent more than $3.5 million to assure passage of the proposal, getting 58 percent of the vote on Election Day. The 61.3 percent voter turnout was under the average of 64 percent for non-presidential elections in the past 40 years.