Lawmakers Take Out Cellphone Keno in Casino Bill

On Monday, a proposal to let people play keno on their mobile phones. While Nebraska bars and keno Parlors stalled abruptly after lawmakers decided to remove it from a casino legalization bill.

The lawmakers voted 27-11 to remove the provision from a broader bill that would regulate Nebraska’s new casino industry. Voters legalized casinos in November despite opposition from prominent gambling opponents, including Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Cities in the state had implored lawmakers to let people play the game on their mobile phones. To help bars and keno parlors compete with new casinos slated to open next year.

Lawmakers Take Out Cellphone Keno in Casino Bill

However, the idea drew strong criticism from gambling opponents. Who questioned whether expanding the game beyond its current form would make a difference.

According to Bellevue City Finance Director Richard Severson. Keno has generated $7.5 million in local revenue over the last decade that city officials used to upgrade parks. Fund domestic violence abuse programs and promote economic development, among other initiatives.

“Needless to say, that $7.5 million was very helpful without us raising property taxes. And raising the revenue some other way,” Severson told the Legislature’s General Affairs Committee. “This has been a very good program.”

Under current state law, keno is still play with paper cards, while casinos offer flashier, computerized games.

Sen. Tom Brandt, of Plymouth, said he doesn’t see bars-based keno games and casinos as competitors.

“My experience is that regulars (of bars) go in there to drink beer. And Keno happens to be there,” he says. “It’s sort of a different crowd than those who would go to a casino.”

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