Winnebago tribe’s plan to put up a casino in Nebraska has been put in the back burner after a proposal to allow casino gambling in the state failed to qualify for the November general election ballot.
For the proposed constitutional amendment to be included in the fall election, proponents needed at least 117,188 valid signatures.
But the more than 41,000 invalid signatures dashed the dream of Ho-Chunk Inc. – the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s economic development corporation – of putting up casino in the state.
Des Moines Register reported that proponents pushing for casino gambling failed to submit enough verified signatures to put the issue before voters.
Of the 119,666 signatures that the organizers turned in for the proposed constitutional amendment, Secretary of State John Gale announced that 41,710 were rejected after being reviewed by county election officials.
Gale pointed out that at least 24,000 were rejected because signers weren’t registered in the county indicated on the petition sheet. On the other hand, Gale noted that they found at least 4,600 duplicate signatures while 3,000 signatures came from non-registered voters.
“It’s definitely a disappointment,” Ho-Chunk CEO Lance Morgan said after the announcement, according to the news report. “The primary disappointment is that so many people support it.”
Data from the state campaign finance records showed that pro-casino groups shelled out nearly $1.4 million over 10 months to try to place the issue on the ballot. The big bulk of money came from Ho-Chunk.
Ho-Chunk is reportedly supporting the proposal since it wants to reopen Atokad Downs, a South Sioux City racetrack that closed in 2012, and operate a casino on the site.
“Absolutely shocked” was how Morgan described his reaction to the thousands of invalid signatures. Still confused about the result, Morgan said that organizers are now trying to determine where they got it wrong, especially since his group’s polling indicated strong support for casino gambling in Nebraska.
The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska owns and operates WinnaVegas Casino Resort in Sloan, Iowa, but Morgan has said the facility lost some of its market share when the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened in Sioux City, Iowa, in 2014.