Neb. officials try to restrict gaming machines

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning is taking his fight against new video games that offer cash pay-outs to the state Legislature, a move that distributors of a popular new barroom game called a continuation of his "witch hunt."

The proposal unveiled by Bruning and state Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln on Tuesday seeks to crush the moneymaking motivation behind games that they say straddle the line between illegal games of chance and legal games of skill. Cash pay-outs from recreational games deemed legal would be banned, and the value of prizes doled out every game play would be limited to $10 apiece, putting them in the same league as recreational pizza-parlor games like Pop-A-Shot.

"They try to get right to the line," of what's illegal and legal, Bruning said of game makers. "This bill makes all that mute."

The gaming proposal is one of four from Bruning expected to be considered by lawmakers during the 60-day legislative session that begins on Wednesday. The others he released on Tuesday include giving victims of child pornography a clear legal route to receiving court-ordered damages of at least $150,000 from offenders, stiffening penalties for driving with a suspended license, and more clearly defining what constitutes a financial pyramid scheme.

Besides nixing cash pay-outs, the gambling-related measure could make it tougher to offer games that include computer applications that insert an element of chance into the game-playing.

Targeted by the proposed law are video games like Bank Shot, which has swept across the state and offers jackpots as high as $12,000.

John Fox of Bellevue-based American Amusements, which manufactures and distributes Bank Shot, says it's a game of skill, not chance, and that it's therefore legal. He asked the courts to declare it a legal game of chance after the state confiscated a few of the games last year.

The state, meanwhile, has asked the court to declare it illegal and prevent the game from being distributed. The case is set for trial in June in Lancaster County District Court.

There are about 450 of the games throughout Nebraska.

"We are disappointed the attorney general would continue his witch hunt to redefine long-standing Nebraska juris prudence," said Fox.

Both Bruning and Fulton cited statewide votes by Nebraskans to bar expanded gambling as reasons why more restrictions should be put on the games, where Fulton said the line between skill and chance can be purposefully blurred by skilled programmers using advanced technology.

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