Proposed Nebraska Sports Betting Bill Amended, May Pass

Nebraska Sports Betting Bill

  • LB 561 is intended to give race tracks in Nebraska the authority to offer expanded gambling, with limits
  • Two-thirds majority necessary to pass the bill
  • College betting ban has improved bill’s chance at passing into law

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Nebraska legislators, in a move to make a sports betting bill more attractive, have amended the text of LB 561 to include a ban against wagering on in-state collegiate sports teams. Voters in 2020 agreed to amend the NE constitution to establish casinos at the state’s six horse racing tracks, with recent decisions defining sports betting as “games of chance” (thus, making them technically legal in the Cornhusker State).

Now that the practice has a foundation in the NE Constitution, the next step is for lawmakers to agree on the framework for sports betting, licensing fees, tax structure, and more. That’s the current ruckus in the unicameral NE Legislature, whose senators are rushing to make their cases for or against legalized sports betting by session’s end in early June.

Arguments For Collegiate Bet Ban in Nebraska

On the “pro” side, many who agree with the in-state collegiate sports ban see it as what one senator called an “accommodation”: it’s simply a change that needed to be made to get as many people on board with legalized sports betting in Nebraska as possible.

Omaha-based billionaire Warren Buffet and Tom Osborne, the darling of Cornhusker football for decades, are both pushing back against legal sports wagering– particularly on NE-based college teams, citing moral concerns. It looks like the banning amendment will stand for now, as it will push LB 561 more quickly to the governor’s desk.

Arguments Against Collegiate Bet Ban in Nebraska

On the “anti” side, many see a ban against wagering on in-state collegiate teams as a strange choice for a state with no professional sports teams. Some figures estimate that up to 15% of wagering would be done on collegiate sports in the Cornhusker state, meaning that a ban on NCAA sports would markedly reduce revenues.

Senators on the “anti” side argue that folks will just hop over the border to Iowa if they want to place a bet on Creighton or the Huskers, leeching vital revenues away from the state. However, the in-state collegiate ban amendment passed very recently, so a step backward is unlikely.

Current Bill Only Addresses Retail Betting, Heavy Taxes

With the referendum vote in 2020, Nebraska voters agreed to allow casino gambling to take place in the state at a tax of 20% of revenue. Later on, the text of the bill was clarified to mean that “games of chance” can in fact include wagering on sports. But where does that leave the industry?

Well, you’re seeing above that the legislature is still in talks to agree on the full scope of LB 561 and how sports betting will take place in the Cornhusker state. However, nowhere in the bill is their language about “mobile” or “online” betting, so it’s looking like NE is going to miss out on that sizeable revenue opportunity unless the text of the bill is again amended. For now, betting on sports in NE will likely be retail only.

Looking Ahead

As the session ends June 10th and there is already momentum behind the bill in its current form, we’re not likely to see mobile sports betting happening in the state by this year. Instead, lawmakers will have to again amend the Nebraska sports betting law to allow for mobile play, which isn’t likely to happen by June 2021 and is more likely next year if not later. We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.

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Chris Altman

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

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]