Nebraska’s gambling regulator recently made a controversial purchase of 10 semi-automatic short-barreled rifles for $30,351. The rifles were intended for use by the agency’s 10 investigators in the event of a shooting attack at a casino or racetrack.
The purchase raised questions among state lawmakers and members of the board that oversees the commission. Records show that the agency attempted to cancel the order, but it was too late. This led to concerns about the regulator’s spending priorities, especially since the rifles were bought before all investigators were given vehicles for their work.
Dennis Lee, a member of the commission’s board, acknowledged that the optics of the purchase were not ideal, but assured the public that the rifles would not be handed over to the investigators until clear policies and procedures were established for their use.
The 10 investigators, all of whom are deputy state sheriffs, are authorized to make arrests and are certified to use firearms. Their duties include conducting background checks, investigating crimes, and addressing customer complaints in the context of the casino gambling market that opened in Nebraska in 2022.
The need for the rifles was underscored by reported incidents of human trafficking, money laundering, and drug dealing at the state’s casinos, as well as a homicide at a racetrack. Investigators emphasized that the rifles were meant to protect both patrons and officers during a catastrophic event such as an active shooter incident.
The purchase of the rifles was approved by executive director Tom Sage, who is set to retire in March and is currently on medical leave. The rifles, purchased from a gun dealer in Henderson, are currently locked in the commission offices in Lincoln.
Overall, the purchase of the rifles has sparked debate and scrutiny, with some questioning the timing and priorities of the regulator’s spending. However, the agency has emphasized the need for enhanced security measures in response to potential threats in the gambling industry.