Telephone horse-betting declared illegal
By Linda
In a blow to the entire online gambling industry, wagering on horse races over the telephone has been declared to be in violation of the state constitution by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Assistant Attorney General Jay Bartel told the court that when Nebraska voters approved pari-mutuel betting in 1934, the amendment specified that 'the wagering which may be allowed ... is limited to wagering that takes place inside the confines of a racetrack.'

The high court agreed.

'The constitution requires that the instructions to place the wager must originate from within the licensed racetrack enclosure,' said Judge John Wright.

The tracks argued that courts in other states have held that since telephone bets are recorded at a track that technically satisfies the 'on-site' requirement.

That's what is done with simulcast betting, which allows tracks to take bets on races that are televised from other locations via closed-circuit television.

Hugh Miner Jr., executive vice president of Fonner Park, said that even though the Nebraska Legislature approved account wagering in 1992, there was no account wagering for years. Account wagering is a commonly used term for betting on horses over the phone.

Courts do not issue rulings on hypothetical situations, so putting an account wagering system into place was a necessary step to getting a definite court ruling on the matter, Miner said.

As a result, Miner called the case that went before the Nebraska Supreme Court 'a friendly lawsuit.' He, the Nebraska racetrack officials and the Attorney General's office wanted a clear answer on the legality of account wagering.

Because racetrack officials knew the matter was headed for court, they did not heavily promote account betting, Miner said. That would have changed if the Supreme Court had ruled in the racetracks' favor on Friday.

'We could have grown the market,' said Miner, who called Friday's decision unfortunate. However, he said tracks would comply with the decision.

Mike Lehan, representing the racetracks, decried the ruling. He argued that telephone wagering is no different that someone who calls a friend at the track on a cell phone and tells them to place a bet on their behalf.

'But it was the court's decision, and obviously, we'll abide by that,' he said.

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