Nebraska Sports Betting Launch on Hold as Rules Progress Continues

Nebraska Sports Betting Launch on Hold as Rules Progress Continues
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In November 2020, Nebraskans made it known they desire a legal sports betting market. Voters approved in-person sports betting as one of the three constitutional amendments presented to them during the recent elections, and Gov. Pete Ricketts signed sports betting into law in May 2021.  

But a launch date for when Nebraska residents can begin placing bets at the state’s racinos is still to be determined. The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission is still going through the process of drafting and getting the sports betting rules approved, and it remains unclear when that will happen. 

“To me, sports wagering in the state may be a ways off,” Tom Sage, executive director of the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission told the Journal Star in April. “I understand people’s frustration. They think, ‘It was on the ballot, approved by the people. Why isn’t it happening now?’ It’s a long, detailed process with sports wagering. We’re starting from scratch.” 

The state’s gaming commission must approve each of the racinos for sports betting licenses for them to take bets. In addition to receiving a gaming license, the facilities are also in the process of transitioning their properties to meet the new gaming needs.  

Lincoln Race Course is planning a temporary casino floor with 305 slot machines and will add a sportsbook. A new resort-style casino and hotel at U.S. 77 and Denton Road will take about 20 months to be completed. The casinos at the tracks in Grand Island, Columbus and Hastings could also offer sports betting in temporary locations.  

Rules Status 

In April, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission approved an authorized gaming operator application and the background check applications for managers and other key operators. But the casino operating rules still need to be approved by state officials.  

Attorney General Doug Peterson is responsible for reviewing the sports betting rules. Once he finishes his review, it will move to Gov. Ricketts for approval before heading to the Secretary of State where they can become effective a week later.  

Nebraska Sports Betting 

It remains to be seen when sports betting will go into effect in Nebraska, but one certainty is fans won’t be able to bet on local colleges when they play within the state. This means residents won’t be able to bet on any home Nebraska football games or home Creighton basketball contests. But if those teams play on the road, they can place their bets on them.  

Sen. Adam Morfeld was against the in-state ban, citing people's ability to drive across state borders to get their bets in. 

“This is an activity that is already occurring,” Morfeld said. “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.” 

The in-state ban amendment was added with a 31-4 vote. Sen. Steve Lathrop saw it as one way to get sports betting approved in the state.  

“You may not like it, but in the end, we need to get the bill across the finish line,” he said.  

It remains to be seen how much revenue Nebraska will generate from its new sports betting market. Much of the revenue seen in other states comes from its online options, and with only retail sports betting available in Nebraska, don’t expect the large monthly handle and revenue numbers seen from other states in the country. 

Nebraska’s sparse population spread out across the state also means not everyone will have a track or casino near them to get their bets in. In addition to the home game in-state band and no online market, there will be numerous limitations in Nebraska’s sports betting market when it does go live.