SOUTH SIOUX CITY — If Nebraska voters approve of expanded gaming in 2020, Ho-Chunk CEO Lance Morgan says it’d be a win for rural Nebraskans.
A group led by Ho-Chunk Inc. is collecting signatures for a 2020 ballot initiative that would allow casino gambling at state-licensed horse tracks, including Ho-Chunk’s Atokad Park in South Sioux City.
The measure, proponents say, would be a godsend to the Nebraska’s racetracks, which have struggled in recent years. Morgan stressed that Nebraska’s equine economy — the stables, food, training, veterinary care and so on — would thrive under an expanded gaming law.
“Given the fact that rural Nebraska — rural America really — is really struggling in a lot of ways, I think it’ll be great for the rural economy,” Morgan said at the annual horse race held at Atokad Downs Saturday.
Atokad, owned by Ho-Chunk, has just one day of live horse racing per year, the minimum required under state law for Nebraska tracks to simulcast races from tracks in other parts of the country.
Hundreds of spectators turned out to see the five races held Saturday afternoon. It was the largest number of races held at the track since Ho-Chunk bought it in 2016.
Ho-Chunk Inc. tried three years ago to get an expanded gaming measure on the ballot. That initiative failed before it ever reached voters after Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale’s office rejected a tens of thousands of the petition’s signatures.
This election cycle, Morgan says, will be different. Ho-Chunk is in ongoing litigation with Northstar Campaign Systems, which they blame for inflating the number of signatures collected.
Morgan did not wish to disclose the total number of signatures gathered in the new petition drive, nor did he disclose the name of the new third-party vendor gathering signatures this time around, though he did say they are “doing a great job.”
“We have a great process in place, for not just gathering signatures, but also verifying the validity of them,” Morgan said. “I think that we’re not going to have any trouble whatsoever.”