Nebraska Sports Betting signed into law

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  • Personal betting only on racecourses, racinos
  • LB 561 became cheaper for lawmakers after bets on state college teams were removed
  • Little worry about black market betting, lost revenue to Iowa

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Nebraska is driving one of the more limited sports betting bills in the US. LB 561 was incorporated into law Thursday by Governor Pete Ricketts, effectively legalizing the practice. There is still work to be done, but the law is on the books that personal betting should take place at licensed venues in Cornhusker state. We anticipate retail sports betting will go online in 2021, but maybe not before the start of the NFL season: there’s still the issue of licensing that needs to be resolved by the newly minted Nebraska State Racing and Gaming Commission.

What LB 561 allows

LB 561 was designed after Nebraska voters filed a petition in 2020 to allow gambling at games of chance. While the text of the frame in LB 561 is not specifically legalized, it does allow wagering on sports as a game of chance and allows licensed venues to offer personal wagering on anything but government college teams. For a state with no professional sports teams, that exception seems a little out of place, but it was the only way to get legalized sports betting in this session.

Licensed gaming venues in NE consist of racetracks and a few tribal casinos. Now tribal authorities are also allowed to offer Las Vegas-style gambling at their racetrack locations to effectively turn them into racinos. As described in the legal text, games of chance can also include betting on sports. Therefore, expect retail sports betting to open in tribal casinos and racinos as well. One caveat: Now the legal gambling age (excluding lottery) in Nebraska has officially risen to 21 years, so the 18 to 20 year old legal bettors are now being let down.

Legislators are shaking off concerns about the black market and out-of-state betting

It is estimated that 15% of sports betting revenue comes from betting on government college teams, representing a significant amount of lost revenue. However, it seems that the legislature is not concerned. Several NE legislators (all referred to as “Senators” in Nebraska’s unicameral body) have undoubtedly expressed this. Senator Steve Lathrop is quoted as saying that the arrangements that were put in place to get the bill passed (i.e. the ban on in-state college wagering) are “no big deal”. Senators Tom Briese and Patty Pansing Brooks both stated that the people who go to Iowa to place bets don’t concern them. Brooks said, “If people want to go to Iowa (bet on Nebraska college teams) they can go to Iowa.”

These comments are surprising as they are likely to be among the smallest and least limited sports betting markets in the country. However, it appears that the expansion of casino gambling in Nebraska will be a process that will be achieved in small increments. If you want to place bets on mobile sports betting apps, you shouldn’t expect to do so until 2022.

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