Nebraska Gaming Expansion Busts Myth That Casinos Attract Crime

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Gambling opponents often try to block casino expansion measures by asserting that new casinos cause a rise in crime. There's no extensive research to support this assumption, and Nebraska just proved the anti-gambling crowd wrong again.

No Rise in Crime With WarHorse Launch

In a pivotal decision during the 2020 election, a notable 65% of voters rallied behind the establishment of casinos, primarily driven by the objective of bolstering state revenue. Consequently, this move has the potential to augment Nebraska's annual income by a significant margin, ranging from $60 million to $120 million.

Related: WarHorse Casino in Nebraska Debuts the State's First Sportsbook

Nebraska's choice to legalize gambling was met with opposition, as critics anticipated unfavorable outcomes, such as a rise in crime rates. Nevertheless, after WarHorse Lincoln, the inaugural state-sanctioned casino in Nebraska, had been operational for a year, these concerns proved to be baseless.

According to a report by the Lincoln Journal Star, despite the worries voiced by notable figures like ex-Governor Pete Ricketts, Warren Buffet and former Husker football coach Tom Osborne, the introduction of gambling in Lincoln did not result in the predicted surge in criminal activity. In fact, statistics from law enforcement show that the Lincoln Police Department (LPD) had to deal with gambling-related incidents on only 78 occasions throughout the previous year. Such incidents were generally minor disturbances, leading to infrequent citations.

Don Scheinost, the head of LPD's Southwest Team, addressed the low frequency of incidents. He extended his gratitude to the staff in collaboration with the casino's management for maintaining a secure environment. Conversely, police departments across the nation reported a higher number of calls in relation to other public spaces, including hospitals and grocery stores.

During the reporting period, a significant disparity emerged between the police calls received by the Bryan West Campus, a prominent medical facility, and a proximate Walmart situated in southeast Lincoln. The former garnered a considerable tally of 1,425 police calls, while the latter only amounted to 326. This contrast led Scheinost to underline the substantial challenge faced by law enforcement agencies, as offenses such as thefts and carjackings, despite being typically thwarted, still present a grave concern.

The NRGC Takes Control

The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission (NRGC), responsible for regulating the state's casinos, has shown proactivity in addressing any possible concerns associated with these establishments. Among other steps, it has taken proactive measures to combat the issue of human trafficking, which is occasionally linked to casinos.

Actions also included mandatory training for staff members and the placement of posters addressing human trafficking on the hotline and within the casino's restrooms. Casey Ricketts, the commission's chief compliance officer, recognized the potential obstacles that might lie ahead but remained optimistic about their readiness.

Efforts are being made to expedite the process, he stated, emphasizing the significance of collaborative efforts between casinos, advocates for addressing gambling-related issues, law enforcement, and marketing specialists. In 2022, the state of Nebraska embraced gambling following the approval of legislation by Ricketts, enabling applications to commence in June 2023. The extended duration results from the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission's essential task of finalizing license fees.

October 2022 witnessed the implementation of sports betting legalization in Nebraska, as per the regulations sanctioned by the NRGC. While the exact commencement date remains indefinite, sports betting will solely be permitted within the confines of the racetrack casino.

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