Nebraska Excludes In-State College Wagering; Texas Bills Stall

Nebraska Excludes In-State College Wagering; Texas Bills Stall
© USA Today

Sports betting may be coming to Nebraska, although with certain restrictions in place. But in Texas, the sports betting outlook appears more dire after gaming bills stalled in the legislature this week.

Nebraska voters in November approved three measures to allow casino gaming, including retail sports betting, at state-licensed horse racing tracks. Lawmakers in Texas have tried to get gaming expansion in front of voters, but it appears it will have to wait.

In-State Limitations in Nebraska

On Thursday, Nebraska lawmakers adopted an amendment to ban in-state college wagering on games within the state. The restriction means residents in Nebraska would not be able to bet on Cornhuskers games in Lincoln. Betting would also be outlawed on home games for the Creighton Bluejays.

The new measure was pushed forward in hopes of securing enough votes to pass a gaming regulation bill that would legalize wagering on nearly all college and professional sporting events.

“You may not like it, but in the end, we need to get (the bill) across the finish line,” Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha said. “Am I really happy about that? No. Do I think it’s a compelling thing to do? No, I don’t. But we’re making sausage here, and that’s about counting votes. And at the end of the day, Sen. (Tom) Briese needs 33, or this doesn’t go.”

Briese is the sponsor of the gaming bill that needs 33 votes, two-thirds of the legislature, since it modifies what was passed by voters last November.

The in-state sports betting ban for home games was recently brought up for a vote in April. It was introduced by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, but failed to pass with a vote of 18-13 against.

In April, Pansing Brooks highlighted how she believes betting on college games in the state can be a detriment to student-athletes. She used an example where the Huskers had a victory secured but elected to take a knee. Instead of the home crowd cheering, she theorized they could boo if the team didn’t make an attempt to cover the point spread.

Nebraska Money Going Elsewhere

Opponents of the amendment point to the potential loss of revenue if bettors look to back local home teams elsewhere. Bettors could travel to Iowa where betting on the Huskers’ home games would be legal, or resort to offshore books to place their wagers.

“This is activity that is already occurring,” Sen. Adam Morfeld said of the in-state ban. “What we are basically saying is, ‘Yes, you can drive to Iowa on game day, place your bet, and then go to the Husker game. It makes no sense whatsoever. It is literally just puritanical nonsense.”

Sen. Tom Brandt asked Sen. Pansing Brooks about what the potential lost revenue would be, and Pansing Brooks replied that it’s revenue the state is currently not receiving, so those who are betting in Iowa now can continue to go there and wager.

The amendment was added after a 31-4 vote in favor. Lawmakers will vote once more on the bill before it is sent to Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Texas Bills Unlikely to Pass

Multiple lawmakers have aimed to pass legalized sports betting and casino gaming in Texas. Rep. Dan Huberty’s HB 2070 would decriminalize sports wagering and set regulations, while a joint resolution from Sen. Carol Alvarado and Rep. John Kuempel would permit four casinos to be built in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth area in addition to legalizing sports wagering.

But despite the support from operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings, and the professional sports teams in the state, the bills have stalled out. Supporters of the bill also mentioned it’s unlikely they pass with just one month left in the legislative session.

“There’s not time for it to pass this session,” Kuempel told the Dallas Morning News.

According to the Sports Betting Alliance, Texas residents place over $5 billion in illegal wagers each year. The Sports Betting Alliance, backed by Texas professional sports teams, seeks a legal and regulated sports wagering market in Texas.

“Now is the time to let voters decide on legalizing casino gaming across Texas,” Alvarado said in a statement. “Texas loses billions of dollars a year to our neighboring states that allow gaming and this measure would bring that revenue back to Texas, create tens of thousands of jobs and cut down on illegal gambling.”

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