07/02/2004 11:00PM

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An initiative petition backed by the Nebraska Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and other groups to expand gambling in Nebraska was submitted at the state capitol in Lincoln on Thursday morning, containing more than 640,000 signatures

The petition was organized by a coalition operating as Keep the Money in Nebraska Committee, comprising the state horsemen's group, Coast Casinos, and several keno parlors in the state.

The initiative would provide for up to two casinos in Omaha as well as an additional 4,900 slot and video poker machines at locations including racetracks, keno parlors, and bars across the state. The measure, if placed on the ballot, will compete with a proposal placed by the Nebraska State Legislature to allow two casinos in the state.

The petitions will now be sent out to individual counties for verification of the signatures.

A heated political debate is expected leading up to the November elections on the subject. State Sen. Ernie Chambers and U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne have come out as opponents of the initiative.