GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska commission will consider approving a race track’s request to allow wagering on historical horse races, even as the state attorney general challenges its legality.
The Nebraska Racing Commission this week revisited a request from Fonner Park in Grand Island to allow historical horse racing, which allows gamblers to bet on previously run races, though the identities of horses and riders are changed.
The five-member commission originally approved the request in October, but it rescinded that decision Wednesday following concerns from Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson.
Peterson said the commission’s original decision was made during a meeting that violated open-meeting rules. He said the commission also doesn’t have the legal authority to approve the betting machines because it’s a new form of gambling.
In 2012, then-Gov. Dave Heineman vetoed a bill that would’ve allowed betting on historical horse races. Another move to put the issue before voters in 2014 was blocked by the state Supreme Court.
“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.”
Nigro said the attorney general’s office won’t defend the commission if it approves the betting and runs into legal issues.
The commission also heard testimony on the issue this week. Fonner Park officials and horse racing advocates said offering historical horse racing is a way for the industry to adapt, draw more interest and promote horse racing tracks.
Commission Chairman Dennis Lee said the board will take public comments on the issue until Feb. 1. The commission’s decision will be announced in the next few months.
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