Nebraska is moving forward with one of the more limited sports betting bills in the US, LB 561 was signed into law by Governor Pete Ricketts on Thursday, effectively legalizing the practice. There’s still a bit of work to be done, but the law is on the books for in-person wagering to take place at licensed gambling venues in the Cornhusker State. We’re expecting retail sportsbooks to go live in 2021, but maybe not before the start of NFL season: there’s still the issue of licensing to be sorted out by the newly-minted Nebraska State Racing and Gaming Commission.
LB 561 was drafted after Nebraska voters petitioned in 2020 to allow gambling on games of chance. While not explicitly legalized, the text of the framework in LB 561 allows for bets on sports as games of chance, giving licensed venues the opportunity to offer in-person bets on everything except for in-state college teams. For a state with no professional sports teams, this exception seems a bit out of place, but it was the only way to get to legalized sports betting this session.
Licensed gambling venues in NE consist of racetracks and some tribal casinos. Now, tribal authorities will also be allowed to offer “Las Vegas-style gambling” at their racetrack locations, effectively turning them into racinos. Additionally, as the text of the bill describes, games of chance can also include wagers on sports, so expect retail sportsbooks to open at tribal casinos and racinos as well. One caveat, though: now the legal gambling age (except lottery) in Nebraska has officially raised to 21, so 18-20-year-old legal bettors are now left in the lurch.
Figures have estimated 15% of sports betting revenue would have come from bets on in-state college teams, a sizeable amount of lost revenue. It seems that lawmakers aren’t concerned, however. Several NE legislators (who are all called “senators” in Nebraska’s unicameral body) have expressed this in no uncertain terms. Sen. Steve Lathrop is quoted as saying the accommodations made to pass the bill (ie: the ban on in-state college bets) are “not a big deal”. Senators Tom Briese and Patty Pansing Brooks both indicated that people going to Iowa to place bets is not concerning to them, with Brooks saying “If people want to go to Iowa to (bet on Nebraska college teams), they can keep going to Iowa”.
These comments are surprising coming from what’s expected to be among the smallest and most limited sports betting markets in the country, but it appears that expanding casino gambling in Nebraska is going to be a process achieved in small steps. If you’re looking to be able to place bets on mobile sports betting apps, don’t expect that until at least 2022.
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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]More info on Chris Altman
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