A direct connection exists between widespread promotion and availability of commercialized gambling with the financial hardship and lack of opportunity facing millions of American families today.

This is a week to highlight the voices and stories of those millions who have been severely hurt by government-sanctioned gambling.

The Message is Simple:

“Predatory gambling cheats and damages all of us. You pay even if you don’t play.”

All men and women in our nation deserve a fair opportunity to build the best life possible for themselves and their family, and state-sanctioned gambling robs people of that opportunity.

State-sanctioned predatory gambling is dishonest. It financially and socially damages individuals and their families by lowering their standard of living and spreading exploitation/fraud among them.

In response to this, thousands of leaders and citizens across the country are speaking out to stop predatory gambling. They believe government should not willfully cheat and harm its own people  – whether it takes the form of commercial casinos, tribal casinos, state lotteries, sports betting, or internet gambling.

Here is what Nebraskans need to know about the most prevalent state-sanctioned predatory gambling issues facing our state today.

Casino Gambling

Carter Lake Casino

Currently, the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska is racing to finish building their casino, filled entirely with slot machines, in Carter Lake, Iowa before lawsuits from Nebraska and Iowa challenging the casino can be finished.

The land owned by the Ponca in Carter Lake is not part of the tribes restored lands when the tribe was officially re-recognized in 1990, and they were only able to purchase this land after they entered into an agreement with officials in Iowa that the land was solely to be used for the purpose of building a health clinic, not a casino.

This location also happens to be less than a mile from the Open-Door Mission, a major homeless shelter in Omaha providing food, shelter, and critical resources every day to hundreds of people who are homeless or living in poverty. There isn’t a worse place you could build a casino than next to a major homeless shelter.

This casino wasn’t given approval to be built here by the people of Nebraska or Iowa, rather, it was an unelected, 3-person gaming commission in Washington D.C. who signed off on the project.

Studies have shown casinos create more gambling addicts than jobs, make up to 50% of their revenue from problem and addicted gamblers, and create severe increases in crime including domestic violence, child abandonment, and suicide.  

There are more than 490 tribal casinos in the United States, and these casinos took in over 32 billion dollars in 2017 alone. Despite this staggering amount of wealth, poverty, unemployment, and addiction rates continue to plague reservations at rates exponentially higher than the rest of the country.

A 2014 study published in the American Indian Law Journal looked at two dozen tribes who owned casinos between 2000 and 2010. During that time the tribe’s casinos doubled their total annual revenue, yet the tribes’ average poverty rate increased from 25 to 29%.

If the desire is to foster social and economic prosperity while honoring past suffering and triumph, it’s hard to think of anything more opposite to that mission than building a casino.

Perhaps this is why nearly all of the people who run casinos, and the public officials who lobby to bring them in, don’t gamble themselves.

Sports Betting

New U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Earlier this year the United States Supreme Court struck down a Federal law prohibiting sports gambling in most states. Now, every state, including Nebraska, will see legislation championing state-sanctioned sports betting.

As a state who loves and obsesses over college football, first and foremost Nebraska citizens need to know that this will have a direct, negative impact on how sports are both played and watched.

But as bad as damaging college sports would be, the consequences of legalizing sports betting are much broader and much more severe. A vote to legalize sports betting would be a vote to increase gambling losses, increase gambling addiction, and expose our youth to an inordinate amount of gambling advertisements.

All of this is bad for business, bad for our local economy, and bad for families.

The expansion of commercialized gambling invariably leads to more social costs, which in turn lead to more economic costs – costs paid by all taxpayers.

Legalizing sports betting will also cause illegal gambling to increase, not decrease. This is due to the “normalization” legalization brings and the fact that offshore sites can always offer better odds tax-free off the books, providing opportunities that legalized commercialized sports gambling venues cannot.

Making any government a partner with or enabler of the commercialized sports gambling industry simply makes government an exploiter of its citizens. This inverts the traditional relationship between citizen and government.  A government should exist to protect, rather than exploit, its people.

At its core, sports can be pure fun, inspiring, and even beautiful. They teach hard-work, perseverance, team-work, and can unite entire towns, cities, and nations.  But sports betting, at its core, is none of these things – certainly not for the overwhelming majority of Americans who are guaranteed to lose money or who will never wager and still experience negative changes in their environment.

The State Lottery

#1 Beneficiary – Game Contractors

State lotteries are government programs that sponsor and promote gambling to their own citizens. They encourage people to go out and gamble their hard-earned money on games that are designed for them to lose.

The entire purpose of the lottery is to raise revenue for the state, but less than 25% of the money that the Nebraska lottery takes in actually goes back the state of Nebraska. Troublingly, according to the Nebraska lottery’s cash flow statements, the number one beneficiary of the Nebraska Lottery is actually the contractors who run the games.

In 2017, the Nebraska lottery spent nearly 5 and a half million dollars promoting and advertising gambling to citizens of Nebraska. The leading cause of divorce next to infidelity is financial problems, yet the state of Nebraska, as a government program, actively encourages citizens to make financially poor decisions – decisions the state knows will result in the citizen losing money.

By design, there are a very limited number of things that state government is involved with. Running and promoting gambling schemes should not be one of them.

There is a growing body of research that continues to show how state lotteries do far more harm than good, especially to those who can least afford it.

Half of all lottery tickets are bought by the poorest third of Americans, and a study in the Journal of Community Psychology found that lottery outlets are often clustered in neighborhoods with large numbers of minorities.  

A National Bureau of Economic Research paper showed that when you add in the losses from poor families, the result of state lottery’s contribution to education funding is a net loss in education dollars for poor children.

Knowing all of this to be true, the state of Nebraska continues to willfully contribute to family destruction and financial ruin by preying on economically vulnerable citizens and encouraging them to purchase lottery tickets instead of life-sustaining goods or saving for their or their families future.

When it comes to the state lottery, in order for the state to win its own citizens must lose.

Gambling With The "Good Life"

Nebraskans Win When Gambling Loses

State-sanctioned predatory gambling produces nothing but can take everything.  It ruins marriages, destroys families, exploits children, fleeces the poor, bankrupts’ communities, raises crime, creates corruption, makes false promises, distorts reality, and deceives the public.

Our state consistently ranks as one of the best places to live, work and raise a family. Nebraska was also recently ranked the least gambling addicted state in the country. We stand only to lose by changing that.

There are always ways to improve our state, communities, and neighborhoods, but sacrificing local businesses, families, and children to the harms of predatory gambling isn’t one of them.

Stay informed! Like NFA on Facebook and join our e-network so you can speak out when gambling issues come to the forefront in Nebraska.

Nate Grasz

Nate Grasz

Policy Director
Nate is the Policy Director at Nebraska Family Alliance and host of the Capitol Report program.