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Sports bettors in Nebraska could be rejoicing soon have the potential to enjoy legalized wagering in their state, but they first would be wise to “read the fine print”.
A legislative package spelling out the limits for sports betting in Nebraska advanced rapidly last week from the General Affairs Committee, along with measures to make permanent some pandemic-driven changes in alcohol licensing.
Among those initiatives included a constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling at licensed horse racetracks and laws regulating the casinos and earmarking most of the tax revenue for property tax relief.
During the vote, committee members merged previous bills LB 560 and LB 561 and passed the resulting proposal 5-1 in favor, endorsing state residents’ decision dating back to the November 2020 referendum providing for the green light to gambling regulation.
The constitutional amendment voted-in allows for the legalization of casino gambling at licensed racetracks with the proceeds to be used specifically for property tax relief. However, the bill made no clear mention of sports wagering. Currently, one of the most discussed and popular aspects of the United States gambling industry.
The debate continued that the initiatives did not mention sports betting. Opponents, including former Nebraska Cornhusker head football coach Tom Osborne, argued that the bills would expand gambling by providing for sports betting.
But Committee Chairman State Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, sponsor of both measures, said the initiative language allows for all “games of chance” at the racetrack casinos had opened the door to sports betting. He argued that lawmakers should set some parameters for that betting.
Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha, who is an attorney agreed with Sen. Briese. While saying he personally would allow sports betting anywhere and on anything, he warned that not setting limits for the state would create a “free-for-all” at the new casinos.
Sen. John Lowe of Kearney said he could not support the merged version of LB 561 as long as it included provisions on sports betting. He expressed skepticism about whether that form of betting had been authorized by voters.
As this version of the legislation continues, a few rules for sports bettors will likely be controversial due to restriction limits.
All mobile and online wagering look to be off the table for discussion with bettors in the state-mandated to visit designated retail locations for all sports wagering opportunities.
Nebraska would also ban all gambling on credit as a protective countermeasure against potential gambling addiction. Individuals who have a proven track record of gambling problems would be added to a special exclusion list and not be allowed on the premises of racetracks in the state and gambling-designated areas at any onsite facility.
The state would also prohibit betting on underage athletes who participate in college and university championships.
A goal for Nebraska legislators is to arrive at a clear-cut taxation scheme to collect proceedings from gambling venues and return them back into the state coffers. Simultaneously, Nebraska would criminalize various gambling offenses, including manipulating or cheating at slot machines or making gambling accessible to underage individuals.
If committee members decide both casino and sports betting gambling be allowed, Nebraska would next have to create a single regulatory unit. At present, the state only maintains the State Racing Commission. The commission may change its name with these new policies potentially enforced.
Nebraska is also considering the idea of a form of mobile gambling but in a limited capacity. As example, players would be allowed to play keno from a mobile app providing they are in the exact location where the physical game is taking place.
For sports bettors, the evaluation seems to conclude in a conservative state like Nebraska, the choice is accepting a more limited and restricted form of sports betting rather than no legalized sports betting possibility at all.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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