Commercial casinos approved for Nebraska

  • Three gambling initiatives were passed in Nebraska that legalize casino games at the six horse racing tracks in the state.
  • If sports betting is considered a “game of chance” by lawmakers, it could be included in the finalized list of what will be offered at these gambling establishments in 2021.

LINCOLN, Neb. – November 3 marked the day that voters in Nebraska passed three Initiatives; 429,430, and 431, expanding their gambling industry to include legal commercial casino gaming. But with this expansion, will lawmakers include NE sports betting as part of its newly legalized casino package?

Under the three measures, the six horse race tracks of Nebraska will be converted into racinos, meaning they will offer both horse race betting and casino games at their locations.

Going into the vote, the state was split on the issue but in the end, the majority vote went toward passing Initiatives 429, 430, and 431.

What Does This Mean For Sports Betting?

Many are asking if sports betting will be something that these racinos will be able to provide for their customers. Currently, the measures allow for slot machines and table games at these locations.

More discussions in length will occur in 2021 to fine-tune a list of what will be eligible as games that fall within the confines of the law. The Initiatives were explicit in saying that “games of chance” were the type that would become legal.

This leaves the topic of a sports betting feature up in the air. States across the nation have gone back and forth on the issue of whether sports wagers were a game of skill or a game of chance. Should they be considered a game of chance in Nebraska, they have a bigger shot of making it on the finalized list of offerings at racinos. But this may be unlikely due to past events.

Previous legislation to make Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) a legal activity in the Cornhusker State proved to be unfruitful and at the time, advocates were arguing that DFS was a game of skill not of chance and therefore should be made legal.

Back then, games of chance in Nebraska saw much opposition. With DFS being dubbed a game of skill, sports betting may be placed in the same category as they are similar industries.

Where Does Nebraska Sports Betting Go From Here?

If sportsbooks and the activities they provide are seen as games of skill then they are automatically withdrawn from being covered by the Initiatives that were passed.

This means that they wouldn’t be discussed to be included in the gambling measures that have been approved during the 2021 session. A whole separate set of measures would need to be proposed to get a legal sports betting in Nebraska.

There were a handful of bills introduced by Senator Justin Wayne during the 2020 legislative session to the Nebraska Legislature that would have made wagering on sports legal.

However, these bills received no traction after their introductions and once the Coronavirus Pandemic hit, that left little hope of trying to push for them to get more time on the floor as COVID-19 became the focus of all government agencies. Senator Wayne was unavailable for comment on his thoughts about the current Initiatives, their passage, and what that could mean for Nebraska sports betting.

If gambling on sports matchups becomes a legal activity through the measures passed for casino gambling, then sports bettors in Nebraska would see sportsbooks open at the six racinos. But government officials have no knowledge of sports betting being eligible as it pertains to the approved Initiatives.

“The Secretary of State’s Office does not have any special expertise on the question of sports betting as an outgrowth of the gambling initiatives,” said a spokesperson for the Nebraska Secretary of State’s Office to LegalSportsBetting.

If sports wagering does become available, it’s highly unlikely that Nebraska would include a mobile feature as they are very traditional and conservative when it comes to topics like gambling. For now, the racinos will begin expanding immediately with temporary casino games until a permanent license and list of games is made available to them.

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