It is rather discouraging that a lot of states have been unwilling to be trailblazers. Many states seem to be late to the sports betting party and are finally getting to that point because they realize the money that is leaving the state to bet on sports elsewhere. One such state is Nebraska, where sports betting is finally starting to pick up steam because of the success that the state of Iowa has had.
Nebraska is steeped in football tradition and we all know that betting goes hand in hand with football. It would seem like a Great Plains state like Nebraska would have been one of the quicker ones to find a new source of revenue after PASPA was overturned by Murphy v. NCAA in May 2018, but that has not been the case.
Maybe we are underselling the efforts of the state legislature. The fact of the matter is that games of chance are banned in Nebraska. You know, well, except for a state lottery, which is the chanciest form of gambling out there.
Furthermore, Nebraska’s legislative setup is in direct contrast to a lot of states. Most states have a bicameral legislature, which means that there are two separate lawmaking bodies, like the House of Representatives and the Senate. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature, which means that there is just one legislative chamber. Nebraska is the only state in the United States with that setup. There are also term limits in place with that setup, so it has been hard to get everybody on the same page with betting in a legislative session.
There are only 49 seats and terms only last four years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms. To make matters worse for proponents of sports betting, the Nebraska legislature only meets for 90 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years. So, if we’re looking at sports betting in a vacuum, it would probably require the extra number of days to get passed, which really only leaves odd-numbered years given that there are so many strong opinions one way or another.
Anyway, back to the bills and proposals. Because Nebraska has banned games of chance per the state constitution, one route to take is to consider sports betting a game of skill. That could also include an expansion of gaming that includes poker, which is also a game of skill. Daily fantasy sports were also part of the proposal from State Senator Justin Wayne. Another interesting provision of the bill is that it would establish the legal age for betting, DFS, and poker at 19.
Another thing that makes the bill difficult is that there are only four casinos in Nebraska and all of them are on tribal lands. Lucky 77 Casino, Native Star Casino, Ohiya Casino & Resort, and Iron Horse Bar & Casino are pretty much in the extreme northeastern part of the state, which makes it a challenge to enforce something like in-person registration, which is being proposed as part of the bill. That is the modus operandi in Iowa and also in Illinois.
Would Nebraska consider running sports betting through the lottery? That may end up being the case rather than trying to come to an agreement with the tribes and their gaming compacts, which are unique from state to state.
There are a lot of hurdles in the state of Nebraska and not the least of which is the small period of time for legislative sessions. There doesn’t seem to be a rousing enough amount of support to bring this to the forefront with a minimal amount of time for such discussions. That means that sports betting will have to wait until at least 2021 in all likelihood, when this song and dance will start over again.
How Do I Bet on Sports in Nebraska?
For now, and probably for the foreseeable future, betting on sports won’t be happening in Nebraska. Fortunately, for those close to the Missouri River, all it takes is a simple trek across the border to get into Iowa to gain access to their casinos and their online betting. That is one of the primary contentions of Wayne’s bill.
There are casinos in Sioux City, Iowa to the northeast and plenty of casinos just outside of Omaha, which is not that far of a drive from Lincoln. That being said, that is the only current option for residents in the Husker State.
That changes in May when the state of Colorado begins operations with statewide online and mobile betting, not that there are large population centers in Nebraska that are close to Colorado, but it will be another option.
There are deliberations and discussions in Missouri, Kansas, and even South Dakota, which is a state littered with all kinds of tribal gaming facilities. Even Wyoming seems to be closer to approving sports betting than Nebraska.
Ultimately, that may be what it takes for Nebraska to start taking bets. It might have to be landlocked by states that offer legal wagering. Whatever it takes, it doesn’t seem like Nebraska will have legal sports betting in 2020 and, at this point, 2021 would even be an underdog as well.