Big-name conservatives rally against Nebraska casino measure

LINCOLN, Neb. — Some of the biggest conservative names in Nebraska politics lined up Monday against ballot measures to legalize casinos, which they argue would fuel an increase in gambling addictions and related social problems.

Voters will decide next month whether to allow casinos at state-licensed race tracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus and South Sioux City. In-person, early voting for the general election started Monday.

Opponents of the legalization measure drew vocal support from Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, former Gov. Kay Orr, former Nebraska football coach U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne, and a handful of state lawmakers. 

“We feel that these initiatives are certain to damage that quality of living,” Osborne said. He said the people affected most “will be the family, spouses and children of those have a gambling problem.”

Backers argue that the three measures, which would legalize, tax and regulate the industry, would create jobs and a new source of state tax revenue.

Opponents tried to keep the issue off the ballot with a lawsuit in September, but the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the question can go to voters.

Ricketts said Nebraskans are generally prudent, fiscally responsible and take care of their families, and “casino gambling is opposed to all of those values.”

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