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

We “WON”! God has given us another miracle!

Dear Friends,

I am still reeling with joy and gratitude. After 4 long days at the Capitol we defeated that awful “Poker Bill”. LB 619 would have allowed “Poker Rooms” for anyone holding a liquor license and we currently have over 5700 in the state. Now I know not all of them would jump at the chance to have a “Room” or hold a tournament but any would have been too many and all would have managed to hurt families and businesses.

This bill was a hold over from last session and came up so soon this year that it was difficult to get in gear and fight it. Sen. Larson the sponsor had been working on lining up Senators for months and he was boasting that he had his 25+ votes to pass. Apparently God didn’t agree because when the 1st vote was taken yesterday on Larson’s amendment he could only garner 14 votes out of 49. That was a shock to all of us especially him. In spite of that terrible showing he persisted in taking up the whole day today filibustering his own bill and aggravating all the other Senators who are anxious to get on with business in this short session.

The final vote came at 3:30 PM today and we all breathed a sigh of relief as “Poker” was laid to rest.

We give God the glory and live to fight another day. The “Fantasy Sports Betting” bill, another Larson proposal, has already been submitted. This needs to go to committee and we will be there to testify. Considering the resentment that Larson generated by his antics on “Poker” I doubt if the body will be interested in supporting him on this.

There are still a few more days to enter bills so we will be watching and praying that no more come up.

For right now I think I will just collapse and sleep in tomorrow. We have the Senators lunch next Friday the 22nd and a press conference in February so never a dull moment.

Before I fall asleep at the computer I want to thank everyone for contacting the Senators, for coming down to keep me company during this ordeal, for sending words of encouragement and most of all for the prayers. Those have been the winds beneath our wings for the last 20 years.

Good Night & God Bless,  Pat

Pat Loontjer, Executive Director
Gambling With the Good Life

URGENT help needed, Poker Room Bill vote is Monday 1/11/16

Dear Supporter,

Looks like we are starting off with a “BANG” in the Legislature this year so we really need your help!

Sen. Larson’s poker bill, LB 619 is going to be voted on today, Monday, January 11th.

It would allow anyone with a liquor license to have a “Poker Room”. Currently there are 5723 active licenses in Nebraska. Now I know they won’t all want “Poker Rooms” but any, will be too many.  Please contact as many Senators as possible and ask them to vote NO or Not Voting on LB 619. 

$14.4 million Medicaid fraud may be state’s largest ever

WORLD-HERALD   Wednesday, September 30, 2015
LINCOLN — The pharmacist lost his composure in court Tuesday as he admitted to pulling off perhaps the biggest Medicaid fraud ever in Nebraska.

As Scott Tran tearfully uttered the words “guilty, your honor,” he was confronted by the reality that he will spend up to 10 years in prison before spending the rest of his life trying to pay back the $14.4 million he stole from the state and federal health care program.

“It’s the biggest one I’m aware of in Nebraska,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Everett said after the hearing in U.S. District Court in Lincoln.

Most of that staggering sum ended up in the casinos of Council Bluffs, according to Omaha attorney Clarence Mock, who represents Tran. His client once paraded as a high roller at the blackjack table, but he was really consumed by addiction, Mock said.

“All of Mr. Tran’s conduct in this case, all of it, stems from an inveterate gambling addiction that he just couldn’t control,” Mock said.

Read more at Omaha.com

Lincoln One Day Horse Race is a Farce

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An article posted on August 11, 2015 in the Lincoln Star Journal was entitled: Date set for Lincoln’s one annual horse race.

This was our response; also posted in Lincoln Journal Star on August 20, 2015.

I found it very interesting that the Lincoln Race Course is so proud to announce their one day a year of horse racing in order to keep their simulcast license. They should be ashamed of themselves for bragging about this farce. Nebraska Horse tracks are the only business in the state allowed to gamble on simulcast races in other states. They were given that privilege years ago under the guise that they would use the profits to hold horse races and thus “save the horses.” Well, that never happened and now they are back saying they need slots to “save the horses.” When will the gambling industry admit that they dont give a hoot about the horses and just want to use them to line their own pockets with gambling dollars?

Just look at what happened to our neighbor, Iowa. The gambling industry cried that they needed slots to “save the dogs.” They got the slots but just last year a Council Bluffs casino announced they were losing $9 million a year keeping dog racing alive. They offered their Legislature millions to let them off the hook, dump the dogs and continue to make a fortune on slots. Proponents of the change said it was time for the dogs to go as they are a dying breed. The same thing will happen to the poor horses that are being used as pawns in the Nebraska scenario.

A one or two day race season in Lincoln and Omaha is not live horse racing. The Racing Commission no longer exists to support live horse racing. They are working to transform horse tracks into other forms of gambling, like simulcasting and, their dream, slot machine parlors. This is not good for live horse racing or for Nebraska. The state racing commission fears its own end since horse racing has effectively ended in Nebraska due to lack of public interest.

“Give us the slots, and well create jobs and save the horses,” they promise.  Dont bet on it!  What it will do is increase gambling addiction, which in turn destroys families and legitimate businesses. Do we need more crime, more embezzlements, more divorces and more suicides? NO

The Racing Board in Nebraska also announced that they will be back in the Legislature next year to try to get the “Historic Horse Racing Machines” put on the ballot. Remember that these are the same “Dead Horse Slot Machines” that have been defeated year after year. Rest assured, if they are coming back then so will we. Gambling with the Good Life has protected Nebraska families and businesses against expanded gambling successfully for the past 20 years, and we are not about to give up now.

Pat Loontjer   Executive Director   Gambling with the Good Life

Protecting Nebraska families and businesses against expanded gambling since 1995

20th Anniversary Celebration

IMG_0991Pat Loontjer, Executive Director of Gambling with the Good Life is happy to announce that they will be celebrating 20 years of no expanded gambling in Nebraska since this grassroots organization was formed in 1995.

Loontjer went on to say that a celebration dinner will be held at the Governor’s Mansion to commemorate this special event. We are thrilled to be celebrating with our wonderful Governor Pete Ricketts who has been on our Board for the last 10 years and a tremendous supporter of our cause. He will be there to welcome us and to present the following proclamation.

 

 

The following photos are from the event:

 

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Proclamation – Presented Aug. 3, 2015

20th Anniversary of “Gambling with the Good Life”

IMG_0991WHEREAS: Gambling with the Good Life was formed as a grassroots organization in 1995 with the expressed goal of preventing expanded gambling in the great state of Nebraska.

WHEREAS: The devastation that gambling addiction causes for both families and society has been well documented and has affected many of our neighboring states.

WHEREAS: For the past 20 years a dedicated group of citizens have successfully fought off the predatory gambling interests and preserved the “good life” that we all enjoy today.

WHEREAS: The observance of this momentous anniversary of Gambling with the Good Life provides us with a special time to recognize that concerned citizens who with hard work and dedication have accomplished remarkable victories that have blessed the entire state.

NOW, THEREFORE: I, Pete Ricketts, Governor of the State of Nebraska, DO HEREBY RECOGNIZE the 20th ANNIVERSARY OF “GAMBLING WITH THE GOOD LIFE” in Nebraska, and I do hereby urge all citizens to take due note of the observance.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand, and cause the Great Seal of the State of Nebraska to be affixed this Third day of August, in the year of our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen.

Longtime horse racing leader parts ways with Omaha Exposition and Racing

Article from the Lincoln Journal Star

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After years of heading horse racing operations in Omaha and Lincoln, Greg Hosch has parted ways with Omaha Exposition and Racing.

Omaha Exposition and Racing Board President Robert Moser Jr. confirmed Hosch’s last day on the job was Friday, but declined to say whether he left voluntarily.

Hosch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hosch, who lives in Millard, was vice president of racing for Omaha Exposition and Racing, as well as general manager of Horsemen’s Park in Omaha since 2008 and oversaw operations at the Lincoln Race Course. He ran unsuccessfully last year for the Legislature’s District 12 seat.

Horse racing has been on the decline nationally for decades. Supporters of Nebraska racing were dealt a major setback in September when the state Supreme Court struck from the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed betting on previously run races. Proponents had said the historic racing machines would have given the industry a much needed injection of cash.

Moser, who also serves on the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, said Omaha Exposition and Racing is looking for a replacement for Hosch and applications are due by July 10.

Lincoln Race Course in 2013 opened a new facility in southwest Lincoln where fans can wager on simulcast races from tracks across the country. But the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which owns the property, has struggled to get the funding to build a permanent race track. Instead they have built a temporary track to allow a single day of racing, which state law requires to allow simulcasts.

A former manager of the Lincoln Race Course, Judd Bietz, filed a lawsuit in March saying he was wrongfully fired in retaliation for reporting Hosch for alleged illegal use of the pari-mutuel betting system. Lincoln police investigated the allegations but no charges were filed.

Lancaster County District Judge Steven Burns last week cleared a major hurdle for Bietz, ruling the suit could move forward against Omaha Exposition and Racing and the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. The judge also gave Bietz permission to amend his complaint against the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

Leadership of Nebraska’s racehorse industry has seen turnover in recent months. Three members of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which owns both the Omaha and Lincoln race courses, were voted off the board in April, including then-president Todd Veerhusen.