Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Lincoln Journal Star. September 8, 2022.

Editorial: Measured approach on sports gambling is the best bet

WarHorse Casino should be open this month, just in time for the NFL and college football seasons.

However, even though sports betting was approved by voters in the 2020 referendum that established casino gambling in Nebraska, you won’t be able to place a wager on any game at the state’s first-to-open casino anytime soon.

That’s because the rule-making process for sports betting is only in its initial stages, largely because the Nebraska Legislature did not authorize mobile sports betting, choosing instead to require that all sports betting occur in person at Nebraska casinos

Because of that requirement, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission sensibly chose to first craft the rules and regulations for casinos and get the casinos, which must be operated in conjunction with a horse racing track, authorized and on the way to opening before beginning work on sports betting.

While it disappoints those who hoped to begin wagering on sports the day casinos opened, the commission’s decision was wise – for two reasons.

First, it will allow the commission to closely monitor the casinos as they open, assuring that they will be properly and smoothly operated. Second, in that process, lessons that can be applied to sports betting will almost certainly be learned by casino operators and the commission.

Plans are to bring proposed rules for sports betting, which have been created and are being reviewed by the industry, before the commission at an Oct. 21 public hearing. If approved then, as is likely, sports betting still won’t be available in the state until early 2023.

It took about five months for casino rules to be approved by the governor after the Racing and Gaming Commission voted on them in December. If the process takes the same amount of time, that would mean sports betting rules could be in place by March or April of next year.

That would miss the entire 2022-23 football seasons for NFL and colleges. But it would provide sufficient time for the Legislature to reconsider the ban on mobile sports betting.

That wagering, which is permitted in 21 of the 30 states that have sports betting, would, without question, increase the amount of money bet and thereby the tax revenue to the state and make sports betting equally available to all Nebraskans, especially those in the Panhandle who will be hundreds of miles from the nearest casino.

Even if the Legislature chooses not to take up sports betting in its session that begins in January, the wait for sports betting – about 2 ½ years after it was approved by voters – is reasonable and should help create the best environment for casino gambling to begin operating in the state before a single legal bet on a game can be placed.

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Norfolk Daily News. September 12, 2022.

Editorial: Once worried about in economic development circles, automation now is Nebraska’s best hope

In some economic development circles, hesitancy — perhaps even a bit of fear — was expressed when the topic of discussion was how automation might impact rural Nebraska’s economy: Would the introduction of automation — in manufacturing, in agriculture and other fields — eliminate the jobs of hard-working Nebraskans?

It’s time to revisit that issue, especially in light of the $25 million federal grant recently awarded to what’s known as the Heartland Robotics Cluster — a coalition of Nebraska entities, including Northeast Community College in Norfolk. The grant will largely focus on helping Nebraska become a national leader in automation and robotics.

Northeast’s portion of the grant includes the development and operation of a well-equipped fabrication lab geared to the workforce needs of local and area manufacturers, many of which generate products and serve clients that support the agriculture industry. The other focus area will be development of a robotics curriculum that ultimately will be shared with all of Nebraska’s community colleges.

If the old way of thinking about automation was still present, those focus areas at Northeast might be a cause of trepidation. Fortunately, a new — and better — way of thinking has replaced the old.

The reality is that Nebraska is grappling with serious economic challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic marked a seismic shift in the state’s workforce supply, creating the nation’s lowest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in December 2021 of 1.7 percent — and Northeast Nebraska counties recorded an even lower rate.

If workers continue to be a scarce commodity, then automation, robotics, and manufacturing creativity are the only solutions. Manufacturers must do more with less. As a Nebraska State Chamber of Commerce official recently said, “We have no shot for growth without automation.”

That is what Northeast’s fab lab will accomplish — work with schools to build interest and foundational skills in manufacturing, and work with the approximately 75 area manufacturing firms and their 5,000-plus employees to introduce and enhance automation with the use of robotics.

That doesn’t mean the elimination of existing jobs, but it may mean changes in those jobs — new skills to learn, new areas of expertise to develop. One can argue that the workforce at a manufacturer will be in a far better position in terms of their employability once automation and robotics have been implemented and embraced.

That’s the exciting future that Northeast Nebraska and other rural areas can look forward to. Automation need no longer be worried about. It’s where the state’s economy is headed, and those hard-working Nebraskans can be an important and essential part of it.

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