In the face of mounting pressure from the state, the Nebraska Racing Commission this week reversed course and for now, is not allowing historical horse racing machines at Fonner Park.

The commission voted last fall to permit the machines but has backed off following statements from Attorney General Doug Peterson, who said the commission did not have legal authority to put in the machines because they should be considered a new form of gambling.

As in other states, horsemen in Nebraska are pushing for the addition of historical horse racing to help fend off competition from casinos.

“I support anything that can help out the industry,” said Mike Newlin, executive director of Omaha Exposition and Racing. “Omaha, in particular, is facing four casinos in our front yard.”

But family groups and state officials are standing firm.

“As much as the commission wants to approve historic horse racing, it cannot,” said Assistant Attorney General Laura Nigro. “That must be decided by the legislature or the people of Nebraska.”


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