Backers of Nebraska’s instant horseracing betting bill have failed in their attempts to override Gov. Dave Heineman’s veto. Heineman claimed Legislative Bill 806 – which would have permitted racetracks to install VLT-style machines that allowed punters to wager on historical races – represented an expansion of gambling, which Heineman felt raised constitutional issues. Bill sponsor Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh countered that his legislation was “about jobs … this is about us getting out of the way of the [horseracing] industry.” Despite two separate votes, state senators fell one vote shy of the 30 necessary to overcome the good guv’s objections.
In Pennsylvania, table game revenues hit an all-time high in March. The $61.8m haul represented a 9% jump over the previous record high set in February 2012 and a 13.3% bump over March 2011. The average number of tables in operation statewide increased from 854 to 1,028 over the past 12 months. The hot streak at Pennsylvania’s casino tables follows a new slots revenue record ($233.1m) revealed earlier this month. Last week, the state’s Budget Secretary announced that $783m in gambling proceeds would be available for tax relief this year. The average homeowner will see a reduction of $200 in property taxes as a result.
New Jersey looks like Old Mother Hubbard compared to Pennsylvania’s bounty. The state collected $18.5m in casino tax revenue in March; a 12% drop from the previous March and 18% less than Gov. Chris Christie’s budget target. Making matters worse, each of the state’s dozen casinos has filed appeals of its tax assessments, which were last established in 2008, before AC’s world went to shit. The casinos claim their former gaming palaces are now essentially tar paper shacks and should be taxed as such. NewJersey.com reports that the city has begun settling: Pinnacle Entertainment and Resorts Atlantic City received a combined $18m refund last year, Caesars received a $27m rebate just last month and Trump is reportedly close to its own deal.
A new political action committee has formed in Florida to get a statewide referendum on the (for the moment) stalled destination casino issue onto the November 2014 state ballot. New Jobs and Revenue for Florida’s paperwork was filed by Tallahassee lawyer/political consultant John French, and lists its reason for being as “Statewide constitutional initiative, re: gaming.” Contacted by the Sun-Sentinel, French declined comment on whether the major backers of resort casinos in the Sunshine State – including Genting, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts – were funding the PAC. Florida has held three previous referendums on the casino issue (1978, 1986 and 1994) but support has never topped 39%. Thanks to a 2006 amendment, a 60% approval tally is required for the initiative to pass. Nova Southeastern University prof Bob Jarvis said Florida’s history suggests that “if you have enough money and keep knocking on the door, you’ll eventually get the change. It just takes time and money.”