Gambling Bills in the Legislature

Is it too much to ask for “NO” expanded gambling bills in 2018? The answer apparently is “NO”!!

This is a “short” year for the Nebraska legislature, 60 days, ending on April 18th, 2018. They have lots of important bills to discuss including closing a huge deficit in the budget but somehow a few pro-gambling Senators found a way to squeeze in a few gambling bills.

Here is what we are facing:

LB 469 “Fantasy Sports Betting” was a carry over bill from last year. It was debated for 3 hours on January 17th and then the speaker “pulled it” off the agenda. The sponsor, Senator Larson now has to show that he has at least 30 votes in order to bring it back. I understand he is working on that but it is a hard hill to climb, thank goodness.

LR 269CA is a Constitutional amendment by Senator Schumacher to create a “Sovereign” city – 36 miles square in the middle of Nebraska. He claims it is not intended for casinos but we can’t trust him. We testified against the bill on January 31st and it is stalled in committee now. Please pray it stays there.

LR 294CA is another Constitutional amendment that Senator Larson is proposing. It would change our Constitution to allow all gambling related decision be made and managed by the Legislature. Currently that is left to the voters of the state. We testified on this on February 12th and currently it is in committee. Pray that it dies a happy death there.

Update on Ponca Casino in Carter Lake, IA

Here we go again !

On November 15th the Ponca’s announced that they had finally (after 9 years on appeal) had gotten permission to build a casino on 5 acres of land in Carter Lake, Iowa (on Nebraska’s side of the Missouri). They had bought the land in 1999 under the pretense of building a Clinic. We knew they were lying because the few Ponca’s in Omaha reside in South Omaha. Why build a clinic in Carter Lake?

Well, it didn’t take long before they went back to Washington and asked for the land to be put “In Trust”. They were given the designation based on the fact that it was for a Clinic. Shortly thereafter they “changed their minds” and decided that a Casino would be better.

The states of Nebraska, Iowa and Council Bluffs appealed the ruling which was reversed and the Ponca’s challenged the decision.

So, now we are faced with the possibility of having a Casino a mile from downtown Omaha and across the road from our airport and the Open Door Mission. I understand that the Attorney Generals of Nebraska and Iowa are looking into reversing this travesty but much prayer is needed.

We have worked successfully for 22 years to keep expanded gambling out of Nebraska and now this.

Below is the time line for the history of the Ponca casino project.

Please pray for this situation and I will keep you informed.

Blessings, Pat

 

    HISTORY OF THE PONCA CASINO PROJECT

 

  • In 1877 flooding and shifting of the Missouri river left a small parcel of Iowa land (2,000 acres) on the Nebraska side of the river. This is Carter Lake, Iowa, population 3,300.
  • Carter Lake is just northeast of downtown Omaha and directly across from Eppley airport. It is within a short distance of the new Quest Center, Gallup University and the proposed stadium.
  • In 1962 the Federal Gov. at the request of the Ponca tribe terminated the tribe’s status and divided its land and money among its members which were less than 70 in number at that time.
  • In 1990 the Federal Gov. re recognized the Poncas as a tribe. This made them eligible for Federal funding of which they have made extensive use. They claim 1,000 members in Nebraska & Iowa but this has yet to be proven.
  • The Poncas are the smallest of Nebraska’s 4 tribes and have no reservation.
  • In 1999 the Ponca tribe purchased 5 acres of land in Carter Lake and had it taken into “Trust” in 2002 for the purpose of building a health clinic. There is no tribal interest in Carter Lake.
  • Tribal leaders repeatedly misled local and state officials in Iowa about the tribe’s actual intentions. Many times they reiterated that the land was for a clinic not a casino.
  • In Oct. 2007 (unbeknown to anyone in Nebraska) the Poncas appealed to the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to be able to build a casino on that land. It was denied because the site was not taken into Trust for gambling purposes under the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regulations. They appealed the decision.
  • On Dec. 31, 2007 the NIGC reversed their ruling and allowed permission, stating that although there had been deception on the part of the Ponca tribe they could not restrict their land usage.
  • The NIGC is an independent regulatory agency established within the Dept. of Interior pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. This is a bureaucracy of 3 appointed tribal members.
  • Jan. 2008 the Sec. of Interior Dirk Kempthorne made a decision to tighten regulations allowing Indians to purchase land off reservations for gambling purposes. He correctly noted that since 1930 tribes have been permitted to put land in Trust for the purpose of tribal unity and the current rash of applications seem to have more to do with money then tribal cohesiveness.
  • On Jan. 17, 2008 Carter Lake Mayor said “I have no problems with casinos at all”. But he wondered how it would affect his police and volunteer fire department. And well he should as Indian casinos pay no taxes to local or state governments. Carter Lake would also be responsible for road maintenance and counseling for problem gamblers that would inevitably result from a casino within walking distance of Omaha’s north side.
  • Jan. 27, 2008 it was reported that many property owners surrounding the 5-acre parcel were willing to sell their land to the Poncas thus permitting their 5 acres to be used for the casino building alone.
  • On Jan. 30, 2008 Nebraska’s Attorney General filed an appeal on behalf of the state of Nebraska. Council Bluffs and the State of Iowa quickly joined us.
  • The case was heard on Oct. 31st and the judge ruled in our favor on Nov. 28, 2008.
  • The Ponca’s challenged this decision and it lingered in Washington for 9 years.
  • On Nov. 14, 2017 the Ponca’s got the 2008 decision reversed. They are preparing to build a casino in Carter Lake with 2000 slot machines, 50 table games and 150 hotel rooms.
  • Dec. 2017, Council Bluffs filed a lawsuit to prevent this. Nebraska and Iowa plan to follow.
  • What happens many times when Indians receive the “rights” to build a casino is that “right” is quickly leased to a Nevada gambling operation who then funds and operates the project. A percentage is then given to the tribe and a few get rich for doing nothing and the majority see a very small financial benefit.
  • Since 1988 when the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) was passed, hundreds of Indian casinos have been built with revenue of $30.67 billion reported in 2017. Despite this tremendous amount of money very little improvement can be seen in the life style of the majority of tribe members.

Praise the Lord! We Won!

Well, we can all start sleeping better at night (especially me). The Nebraska Legislature has adjourned for the year and we dodged another bullet. This now makes 22 years of “NO EXPANDED GAMBLING”. It is truly a miracle and we give God all the glory.

This year we faced 3 expanded gambling bills and testified against each one:

  • LB631 – Change the Pickle Card Lottery Act and authorize methods of payment for participation in certain gaming activities as prescribed. It never got out of committee so it is dead for now.
  • LB469 – Adopt the Fantasy Contests Act- this got out of committee with 2 amendments but is held over to next year. It would allow Internet gambling and is very dangerous.
  • LB470 – Change provisions of the Lottery Act relating to the manner of play of keno, use of electronic tickets, and authorized methods of payment- this got out of committee, got a priority status and we killed it in 2 hours- unheard of.

I am very encouraged by the changes in the Legislature. We gained some good new Senators to stand with our faithful Senators but the gambling promoters never give up. They will be back in January to try again. God willing we will be there to stop them.

Thank you to those who came to testify and to all the citizens who called and wrote to your Senators. We could not have done it without you.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. We will be working over the interim to shore up our supporters and prepare for battle next year.

Blessings, Pat Loontjer, Executive Director “Gambling with the Good Life”

Protecting Nebraska families against expanded gambling since 1995.

Gambling Proponents Cheated Nebraska Once Again

When will gambling proponents ever learn that Nebraskans’ cherish our “Good Life” and we do not want to see it ruined by expanded gambling – especially in the form of Casinos and Slot Machines? For 21 years expanded gambling has been defeated in the Legislature or by the voters. Our Senators wisely examined the facts and came to the conclusion that the 3 to 1 cost of gambling is not worth it. Nationwide studies show that for every dollar a state gains in gambling revenue it costs them $3.00 in social costs. Nebraska does not need increased crime, embezzlements, domestic violence, divorce, suicides and other problems. We value our families and businesses and are not interested in trashing our state.

But will the gambling proponents just stop the foolishness and leave us alone – NEVER! The latest attempt by the “Keep the Money” committee was led by former State Senator Scott Lautenbaugh. It was financed by the Winnebago Tribe who put up 1.4 Million dollars trying to ram Casinos and Slots down our throats. The Tribe did not put up that kind of money because they wanted to help horse racing. They did it because they knew if we changed our Constitution they would be allowed under Federal law to have unlimited Indian casinos in any city or town they wanted – virtually untaxed and unregulated.

Read more at the Lincoln Journal Star…

Federal indictments returned against nine former Winnebago Tribal Council members

Just imagine how much more of this we will have it they change our Constitution to allow unlimited Indian casinos all over the state…

Federal indictments returned against nine former Winnebago Tribal Council members.

WINNEBAGO, Neb. | A federal grand jury has returned an 11-count indictment against nine former members of the Winnebago Tribal Council for alleged corruption and theft of tribal funds.

Former tribal chairman John Blackhawk, 61, and former tribal Council members Darwin Snyder, 49, Thomas Snowball, Jr., 55, Louis Houghton, 69, Lawrence Payer, 70, Travis Mallory, 38, Charles Aldrich, 48, Morgan Earth, 70, and Ramona Wolfe, 76, were each charged with conspiracy, theft and misapplication of funds belonging to an Indian gaming establishment, and wire fraud.

As a result of the defendants’ actions, the loss to the tribe’s WinnaVegas Casino Resort totaled $327,500, according to a news release Wednesday from Deborah Gilg, U.S. Attorney for Nebraska.

An arraignment date for each of the defendants in U.S. District Court is anticipated to be in early August, according to the news release.

The case, which was investigated by the FBI, stemmed from a tribal investigative report early last year that showed the nine council members had given themselves large raises and bonuses.

See More at the Sioux City Journal…

 

Former Dundee Presbyterian Worker Gets Probation

Former Dundee Presbyterian worker gets probation after stealing thousands from church for gambling.

A former employee at Dundee Presbyterian Church was sentenced Monday to five years’ probation after pleading guilty to felony theft of over $37,000 from the church.

Jeffrey D. Bomberger, 42, of Lincoln, was also ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution and get treatment for a gambling addiction by Douglas County District Judge Thomas Otepka.

Most of the church’s losses were covered by insurance, according to defense attorney Jim Hoppe.

“Jeff is now involved in therapy and treatment for his gambling addiction,” Hoppe said. “This has financially devastated him in every possible way.”

Investigator Lance Ivener of the Douglas County Attorney’s Office said in an affidavit that Bomberger, the former director of operations at the church, admitted to using church funds for gambling at keno parlors. Bomberger began working for the church, at 5312 Underwood Ave., in April 2014.

Church leaders met with Ivener on Nov. 2, 2015, after they discovered Bombarder had been using a church account to purchase Visa cards that he said were being used for charitable donations to area ministries. Officials at the ministries denied receiving any money from the church except “officially approved checks,” Ivener said.

Read more at Omaha.com

Gambling Bills Dead For This Year

LINCOLN — A bill supporters said would regulate fantasy sports betting in Nebraska is dead for this year.

The bill’s sponsor sent a letter Friday to Speaker of the Legislature Galen Hadley asking that the measure not be on Monday’s agenda as planned, or on the agenda for the rest of the legislative session, Hadley said.

“It’s the senator’s prerogative to do that,” Hadley said, and he honored the request.Introduced by O’Neill State Sen. Tyson Larson, Legislative Bill 970 was a “Christmas tree bill” involving fantasy sports contests, raffles on weather events, keno and pickle cards.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers said test votes showed the proposal didn’t have the required 33 votes for cloture, which allows a vote on whether to advance the bill.

Chambers last week vowed to filibuster the bill for six hours during first-round debate. About an hour and a half of first-round debate remained.

The bill would expand gambling in Nebraska, said Chambers and other opponents.

Read more at Omaha.com…

Chambers vows to kill three-part gambling bill that would define fantasy sports as games of skill

LINCOLN — Omaha State Sen. Ernie Chambers has vowed to “run the clock” by filibustering a “Christmas tree bill” involving fantasy sports contests, raffles on weather events, keno and pickle cards.

During first-round debate Thursday, Chambers said Legislative Bill 970 is gambling — “pure and simple.

“If you favor more gambling, even if you pass this bill you won’t get it, because I assure you it is unconstitutional,” he said.
The Nebraska Legislature adjourned before voting on a motion by Chambers to indefinitely postpone, or kill, the bill. Debate could resume Tuesday.

As amended by the Legislature’s General Affairs Committee, the bill rolls three measures into one.

O’Neill Sen. Tyson Larson, the sponsor of LB 970, defended its multiple subjects, saying it was necessary during the short legislative session.

“This really is in essence of time to make sure these important issues can get done,” he said.

The measure would define fantasy sports contests as games of skill and require fantasy sports operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, to pay a $50,000 registration fee and annual $10,000 renewal fee.

To be legal in Nebraska, a game must be predominantly a game of skill rather than of chance.

The bill would include customer protections such as requiring fantasy sports operators to verify that participants are at least 18, and prohibiting third-party auto drafters.

The bill also includes a measure originally introduced by Sen. Dan Hughes of Venango that would allow nonprofit groups to use lotteries and raffles based on the timing of naturally occurring weather events.

Read more on Omaha.com…

Thenarse: I let down Husker fans

Lincoln Journal Star   January 27, 2016

Rickey Thenarse wanted to send a message to Husker football fans. He obviously felt it was important.

Which is why he sent me an e-mail this past weekend. He asked that I call him. He wanted to apologize to the fans.

“I just feel like I had a lot of fans, a lot of people expecting great things from me, a lot of people who have done things for me to get to where I was at,” said the former Husker defensive back (2006-10) from the Watts area of Los Angeles, in a phone conversation.

A Lincoln judge sent the 27-year-old Thenarse to prison Tuesday for a home break-in a year ago. His sentence is three to six years. Click here for the story.

I talked to Thenarse Monday. He felt a lot of embarrassment for what he had done.

“I can’t even show my face …” he said.

Read more at the Lincoln Journal Star…

Lincoln pharmacist gets prison time for Medicaid fraud

LJS  Jan. 14, 2016

A judge Wednesday sent a Lincoln pharmacist to prison for being behind Nebraska’s largest health care fraud to date, bilking the state’s Medicaid program of $14.4 million over six years.

Scott Tran, 45, who pleaded guilty to health care fraud, said there weren’t words to describe how sorry he is and how shameful.

“I still have to carry that shame and that guilt for the rest of my life for what I did to my family and to the society,” he said, before U.S. District Judge John Gerrard gave him nine years and two months in federal prison.

Tran asked for a chance to redeem himself and said he has taken steps to address his gambling addiction.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Everett acknowledged Tran’s gambling addiction provided him with the motive to steal.

“And we could debate at length and probably not resolve the question of whether he chose to gamble,” he said. “But I think what is beyond debate is he chose to steal.”

He said Tran, who owned Tran Pharmacy at 2655 S. 70th St., but lives in Omaha, devised a sophisticated scheme to get reimbursed for drugs doctors never prescribed. He tested it on a small scale, then, when it worked, he implemented it on a large scale and continued it for nearly six years.

“He chose to steal on 2,376 separate occasions during this period of time,” Everett said arguing for a 10-year sentence. “That’s more than once per day.”

By the end, Tran owned two houses free and clear, loaned a friend $300,000, owned several nice cars and a boat, he said. And he’d gambled away millions.

Defense attorney Clarence Mock said Tran suffered for years from an untreated gambling disorder that led him to do things he wouldn’t have done, but for the compulsion.

“This is not a situation where we have someone who is an inveterate criminal who otherwise has led a life of disrepute and disrespect for the law,” Mock said.

He said Tran was as remorseful an individual as he’s ever stood next to in federal or state court. Not only did he acknowledge his wrongdoing and concede the restitution amount, he also sat down with agents to explain how he carried out the fraud so that the Department of Health and Human Services might prevent it from happening again, Mock said.

“Nonetheless, an addiction like this, not unlike an alcohol or drug addiction that I see too often in my court, does not excuse your behavior, and it will not minimize your sentence,” he said.

Then the judge sentenced him to 110 months in prison, plus three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $14,450,059.17 in restitution.

Tran has agreed to forfeit his right to cash and property seized early in the investigation, which will go toward restitution.

U.S. Marshals took him out of the courtroom after Gerrard turned down a request to let him report to prison later.

Read full article at the Lincoln Journal Star