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Nebraska Race Wagering

In March 1935, pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in Nebraska and the Nebraska State Racing Commission (NSRC) was established. The NSRC has direct oversight of Nebraska's horse racing industry and pari-mutuel wagering, and its agriculture industry and horse breeding. There are six racetracks in Nebraska that allow betting on live horse racing and simulcast events. Five racetracks offer thoroughbred horse racing exclusively and one track offers quarter-horse races. Nebraska thoroughbred racetracks have offered pari-mutuel wagering on simulcast horse races since 1987.

The NSRC is funded by receiving a small percentage of the handle. The fee was increased in 2012 from 0.40% to 0.64% of pari-mutuel wagers and from fees issued for industry-related licenses. The NSRC accepts a National Racing License, which costs $225 and is valid for three years. The NSRC waives its fees when this national license is used.

In 1991, Nebraska Laws (LB795) allowed Lincoln, Omaha and Douglas counties to purchase a professional baseball team using lottery proceeds, provided that if a horse racetrack was located in the county where the lottery operated, 2% of the gross proceeds from the lottery had to be given to the Thoroughbred Racing Assistance Fund for live thoroughbred racing purses and Nebraska-bred horse awards. In 1995, Nebraska Laws (LB3440) repealed this contribution to the Thoroughbred Racing Assistance Fund.

Nebraska statute mandates payment of a pari-mutuel tax based on handle at racetracks with a total handle of more than $10 million for the calendar year. The current tax rate is 2.5% of handle over $10 million. A 2% credit for capital improvements and maintenance is allowed. State Fair Park is exempt from this tax. On 1 January 2010, Fonner Park became exempt from paying the pari-mutuel tax, when it began hosting the State Fair.

Nebraska law requires a minimum number of live racing days before a racetrack can be approved for a simulcast facility license. In 2012, the minimum number of days required to be able to offer interstate simulcasting was decreased from 103 to 73 days.

During the 2010 legislative session, LB861 was introduced, allowing Commissioners to own race horses and to wager on simulcasting and live races in Nebraska. The measure also increased the number of Commission members from three to five.

In spring 2010, the state legislature voted down two measures aimed at expanding the racing industry. The first would have allowed tracks to have slot machines. The other measure would have allowed non-track facilities to offer simulcast betting on horse races in and out of state.

Lawmakers passed a measure in 2012 that would have allowed the Lincoln simulcast racing facility to stay in Lincoln, regardless of whether live races were offered. The intent of the measure was to preserve the Lincoln facility, whose lease expired on September 30. State law requires facilities to run at least one live race each year to maintain their simulcast betting license. The bill was vetoed by Gov. Dave Heineman.

In January 2012, Sen. Lautenbaugh introduced bill LB806, allowing players to wager on past horse races on video terminal machines. The machines would be allowed only at licensed racetracks. Information about past races such as race dates, places and times, and horses' names would not be visible to bettors. Lautenbaugh claimed that wagers placed using the machines were pari-mutuel betting and allowed by the Nebraska Constitution. He cited a legal opinion presented by Race Tech, one of the companies promoting the machines, to support his rationale. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning had a different opinion and concluded the machines were not constitutional. Governor Heineman, generally opposed to expanded gambling, refused to sign the bill.

On 23 January 2013, Sen. Lautenbaugh tried again, introducing bill LB590 authorizing pari-mutuel wagering on pre-recorded horse races. The proposed constitutional amendment would let voters decide whether instant racing terminals should be allowed at licensed horse racetracks. Proponents argue that the measure would save the horse-racing industry while generating revenue for the state. Opponents see it as expanded gambling. The measure was postponed indefinitely in March 2013.

Nebraska Race Wagering Properties

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