Nebraska’s In-Person Wagering Bill Gets Governor’s Signature
- Bill was amended to remove collegiate sports in May 2021
- No mention of mobile wagering in the bill’s text
- Signed by Governor Pete Ricketts at the end of May 2021
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LB 561, the bill clarifying the definition of “games of chance” to allow Nebraska-area bettors to bet on sports, has been signed into law. In 2020, Nebraskans took to the voting booth to decide whether or not to allow “games of chance” to be wagered on at local horse racing tracks, essentially creating a market for casinos. That vote, a resounding Yes, led us to the sports wagering provisions of Legislative Bill 561. This particular bill had pushback while making its way through Nebraska’s unicameral government but is now officially law.
LB 561 Quickly Took Shape in 2021
LB 561 was introduced at the beginning of 2021 and was soon referred to the General Affairs Committee, which it passed before being placed on General File. Luckily, from there the bill was picked up for review, but it was clear that the bill wasn’t going to be able to pass in its form at the time.
The bill was bounced from senator to senator (Nebraska only has “senators”, as their government is the only unicameral legislature in the country, having only one branch) until mid-May, as the amendment process continued.
Amendments were made to remove bets on in-state collegiate teams and to remove a proposed expansion of keno. With Senator Hilgers’ amendment, LB 561 would no longer allow for electronic keno tickets to be purchased at gambling venues. Additionally, in a surprising decision, lawmakers removed the provision for mobile wagering from the bill on May 13, making Nebraska one of few states to move forward with a retail-only sports betting package.
Bill Signed By Gov. Ricketts in Late May 2021
The amendments were enacted in part to make the bill more attractive to anti-gambling lawmakers and Governor Pete Ricketts himself, who has made several comments against the practice. The governor even went so far as to release a statement against an expansion of gambling just as voters were considering it in 2020, but the people had their say. With the removal of in-state college bets and mobile wagering, Ricketts seemed more open to signing LB 561 into law and did just that on the last week of May 2021.
What to Expect from Nebraska Sports Betting
There’s still the issue of the licensing process, but betting is expected to hit the ground running. Also included in the bill is the expansion of the state’s racing commission into the State Racing and Gaming Commission, which is likely to happen without much difficulty.
Operators will be able to offer bets by the upcoming NFL season if not sooner. That’s provided casinos can create the needed floor space for a sportsbook after securing a license, but that process can be as simple as bringing in an existing bookmaker and giving them a kiosk at the casino bar. LB 561 has an emergency clause tucked into it that will allow the application process to start right away.
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Chris Altman is a traveling writer and content specialist covering everything from betting to plane crashes. He has been working in sports betting, specifically legislation for some time now, covering industry developments and the legal landscape of sportsbooks in the U.S. Chris is also a published short story writer and zine editor. Email: [email protected]