- Casino games and games of chance were approved by voters on their November 2020 ballot.
- The latest bill passed through the General Affairs committee would limit sports betting to racetracks and retail establishments with casino games.
- Governor Pete Ricketts has long opposed Nebraska sports betting and gambling expansion in general since taking office.
OMAHA, Neb. – Those hoping for sports betting in Nebraska to be legalized in 2021 may get their wish. However, there’s a catch.
On Monday, the General Affairs Committee combined NB LB 560 and NB LB 561 into one bill and passed it with a 5-1 vote. These bills would effectively legalize games of chance at racetracks in the state. These games would include slots, card games, and arguably legal sports betting.
The bills will now go to the legislature’s floor to be voted on.
New Path For Nebraska Sports Betting
The legislative measures come off the heels of the November 2020 ballot where Nebraska voters voted in favor of having Las Vegas-style games added to their existing racetracks. The tax money generated from this gaming expansion will be used for property tax relief.
The Initiatives passed on the ballot did not specifically mention sports betting. This has left lawmakers to debate whether or not betting on sports in Nebraska would classify as a game of chance or a game of skill.
During the hearing, Nebraska Senator Tom Briese of Albion, sponsor of both bills, argued that sports betting fell under the umbrella of games of chance and that legislators should set parameters over sports betting operated at racetracks.
Senator Justin Wayne of Omaha, who is the sponsor of multiple bills that would legalize online sportsbooks in Nebraska, argued that sports gambling is a game of skill.
It was ultimately Briese’s bill that saw massage through the committee with key details tacked onto his bills.
Details of LB 560 and LSB 561
Under the terms of the bill, those who wish to bet on sports in Nebraska will have to be at the casino area of a licensed racetrack. They will also have to be 21 years old or older to place bets.
Sports bettors would not be allowed to put action on in-state college teams like the Nebraska Cornhuskers or on any athletes that are under the age of 18. Events that include athletes under that age include this year’s upcoming Olympic games.
People will not be allowed to bet using credit cards and can also request to be banned from casinos.
As for the state, the bills would create a Nebraska Gaming Commission and merge it with the Nebraska Racing Commission. From there, the regulatory agency will be granted authority over the new industry as a means to bypass legislative action in the future.
What It Means For Nebraska
With mobile sportsbooks out of the picture, Nebraska bettors may still be inclined to travel across state lines to place bets.
For example, in Justin Wayne’s district of Omaha (the most populated city in the state), bettors could be within the borders of Iowa in just a few minutes’ drive. Iowa sportsbooks no longer require in-person registration meaning those bettors have plenty of options to choose from.
To the West, Wyoming currently has a bill within their legislature to legalize statewide online sportsbooks. Should that bill come to pass, it could create an incentive for people on that border of the state to use Wyoming sportsbooks rather than those located in Nebraska.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is already firmly opposed to gambling expansion but will have to abide by what voters passed on their 2020 November ballot. Online sports betting may be pushing the boundaries of what was approved.
Because of that, coupled with the Governor’s stance, online sportsbooks will likely have a much longer path to legalization in the Cornhusker State.
– In his career, Hasan has worked both local and state government positions—including the Attorney General’s Office in Florida. On top of being familiar with the legislative process, he has also been researching and writing on the legality of sports betting across the US. Outside of work you’ll most likely find him producing or playing music, playing sports, or working on creative writing projects. You’ll also catch him at Doak Campbell Stadium cheering on the Noles.