The Nebraska Supreme Court heard arguments from both proponents and opponents of expanded gambling in the Cornhusker State just before the start of Labor Day weekend.
In July, a pro-gambling group called Keep the Money in Nebraska announced that it was going to submit three petitions to the state with a combined 475,000 signatures. Those petitions would put expanded gambling measures on the ballot this November and if passed, casinos would be allowed into the state.
Those petitions were submitted, but last month, Secretary of State Robert B. Evnen said that the initiatives failed to comply with the single subject rule and that he would not put the issue on the ballot, despite the signatures being verified.
Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts, who was reelected in 2018, is a staunch opponent of bringing gambling to his state. Evnen was also elected in 2018 and the state is currently one of just 10 that doesn’t allow casinos within its borders.
Luckily for the gambling proponents, the initiatives would alter the state’s constitution, thus bypassing any signature from Ricketts.
When Evnen stopped that process in its tracks, the group hired attorney Andre Barry to fight the battle in the state’s highest court, which heard arguments from both sides a few days ago.
According to a report from the Omaha World-Record,¬ Barry argued that the group divided the measures into three separate petitions to comply with Nebraska’s single subject rule. The other side argued that the separate measures were a “fundamentally deceptive, multi-subject constitutional amendment measure” in a lengthy legal brief.
The single subject rule states that “Initiatives measures shall contain only one subject.”
“They spend 122 pages trying to wring new meaning out of those seven words,” said Barry in court.
Regardless of the outcome, if the court doesn’t act quickly, Nebraskans won’t have the opportunity to have the final say on casino gambling. This November’s ballot must be finalized by the end of the week.
Even if the court returns a favorable decision for the group, those measures wouldn’t be up for a vote until the next election cycle.