A group fighting expanded gambling in Nebraska is pointing to Iowa as an example of the ills they want to prevent in their state, but an Iowa business leader says they overstate the case. Pat Loontjer heads “Gambling With the Good Life,” and she disputes claims that if Nebraska doesn’t approve things like video poker, the state will lose money as gamblers drive to the Bluffs Run Casino right across the border to spend their money.She says Omaha and Council Bluffs are twin cities, so money and workers go back across the bridge and she says most workers at the Bluffs casino probably are Omaha people. She calls gambling “a cancer on our border” and says the answer to lost revenues is not to spread that cancer across Nebraska. Loontjer says there is no good reason to permit video poker, even if part of the profits are promised to Nebraska’s charitable and veterans’ organizations. She says gambling’s addictive behavior and while it could make money, so could legalizing marijuana or heroin, but that wouldn’t make it morally right. Loontjer says “Gambling With the Good Life” was formed in 1995 to fight the effects of gambling, like broken families. She says for every dollar gambling brings in tax revenue, it costs a community three dollars in social costs. If gambling’s so profitable, Loontjer asks why Iowa has a bigger deficit than Nebraska and why Council Bluffs has raised sales and property taxes, become the “crime capital of Iowa,” and had the highest increase in bankruptcies in the nation in 2001. Bluffs Chamber of Commerce president Bob Mundt says gambling has brought many benefits.Mundt says the casinos are directly responsible for 3,500 jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tax base, and hundreds of millions in sales taxes, as well as their contributions to community causes.
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