Could Legal Sports Betting Be On Nebraska’s Horizon?

Written By Russ Mitchell on February 3, 2021 - Last Updated on July 27, 2021

Nebraska voters told lawmakers they wanted casinos with a series of votes on Nov. 3. On Monday, the Nebraska unicameral held a public hearing to map out a way to carry out the directive.

Two bills could set the pace for Nebraska sports wagering.

Sen. Tom Briese, of Albion, is in charge of the Nebraska Legislature’s General Affairs Committee. His bill would begin to regulate sports wagering within the six racetrack casinos in Nebraska:

Voters approved “games of chance” with 65% support, so on-site sportsbooks are a likely partner once casino construction is done at Nebraska’s six racetracks.

Two paths for Nebraska sports betting

Legal wagers could take place at the “racinos” under the Briese proposal. With mobile sports betting, geolocation technology would be used. With an app, casino guests could use their personal devices to avoid lines at a counter or kiosk.

Sen. Brett Lindstrom of Omaha proposed an amendment to the Nebraska Constitution that would give lawmakers a chance to set up a sports wagering statewide through a mobile phone or online.

Sportsbook appeal in Iowa

In Iowa, adults 21 and older can sign up for a sportsbook and bet as long as the activities take place within state borders. An Omaha resident, for example, can cross the Missouri River into Iowa to place a legal bet. However, they don’t have to be in the Hawkeye State to create an Iowa sports betting account.

Nebraska lawmakers representing regions near the Iowa border have noticed.

Lindstrom’s legislative aide, Krissa Delka, said sportsbook discussions remain at the committee level:

“Nebraskans typically have been very conservative when it comes to expanded gambling, which is why it has taken so long for something like this to pass. People have been reluctant because there’s been a large anti-gaming lobby in this state. It just goes with Nebraska tradition. Personally, I think the desire is there for people — particularly in Omaha — seeing what’s going on across the river. They know it’s happening and they just want to be able to control it in our state.”

Nebraska casino construction impacts timing

Any sportsbook regulations or Lindstrom’s amendment would need support from the Nebraska Legislature. Statewide online sportsbooks would be brought to the voters in 2022. Delka continued:

“I think the idea of bringing it to the people is the same with the ballot initiative that was successfully passed in November — let the people decide what they want to have in their state rather than the legislators deciding for them.”

Delka said a fair amount of time would pass before wagering could occur since none of the racinos have been completed. Some racetrack operators have told Lindstrom’s office they would like on-site sportsbook options in place by fall.

Photo by Nati Harnik / AP file photo
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Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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