Milford residents will get to vote in a May 9 special election on whether the city should allow keno and other lottery games.
The Milford City Council voted unanimously to put the measure on a ballot at a special meeting Feb. 15. No one from the public spoke during the public hearing.
The request came from Todd Vegas and Robert Struwe, owners of Sheri’s Grill and Bar, which soon will become Uptown Tavern.
They are working with Big Red Keno to bring the games to the tavern.
To play keno, a person takes a betting slip with preprinted numbers on it. They mark a specific amount of numbers, such as “Pick 5” or “Pick 20,” then hand their slip to a staff member along with their cash wager.
The winning numbers are then chosen at one of four locations across Nebraska and broadcast to other participating locations across the state. A winning ticket pays out based on the amount of numbers chosen correctly, with winnings ranging from 25 cents to $250,000.
Winnings over $1,500 per ticket are subject to federal tax.
Vegas said keno is different from “games of skill,” which the tavern is already licensed to offer.
“Games of skill” require the player to press a button or complete another action with precise timing to win. They aren’t considered gambling because the element of skill doesn’t leave the result to chance.
Winning keno, on the other hand, is solely based on chance and therefore is considered gambling.
State law requires a portion of proceeds from gambling to go toward community betterment efforts in the city or county in which the games are played.
Milford City Clerk Jeanne Hoggins said the city would receive 8¾% of any funds generated by keno and lottery games.
“I think keno would be a great addition to our community, looking at the numbers other communities around us generate in terms of revenue,” Milford Mayor Patrick Kelley said. “I hope our community sees that as a value add, and we can get that moving as soon as possible.”
Hoggins said in 2021, the community of Sterling received $2,300. Eagle received $17,000, and Kramer received $53,000.
If voters elect to allow the games, the city must then work through interlocal agreements and get approval from the state, then from Big Red Keno.
The games wouldn’t be available to play until September or October at the earliest.
Also at the special meeting, the council approved conditional use permits for a storage shed to be placed at 521 First Street and to operate a restaurant/bar facility and place outdoor cooler storage at 503 First Street – where Uptown Tavern will open.
That part of the commercial district is not zoned for a bar, thus requiring a separate permit.
The council also passed a resolution prohibiting housing discrimination in accordance with the affordable housing grant the city received and authorized spending up to $500 on a retirement open house for Police Chief Forrest Siebken on March 31.
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