The state of Nebraska could join the sports betting world on November 3. Three gaming initiatives are on the ballot and have been supported by the “Keep the Money in Nebraska” mantra as voters get ready to decide the Presidency and several key issues in the Cornhusker State.
Northern neighbor South Dakota is deciding on sports betting in Deadwood and many Nebraskans have leaked across the border to Iowa to place retail sports betting wagers. With the in-person registration requirement likely gone on January 1 in Iowa, that would mean that all you would have to do is be inside the borders of the state to place a sports bet.
That level of convenience would push a lot of Nebraskans with easy access to Iowa into sports betting. That includes Omaha and Lincoln, far and away the two most populous cities in the state. It would certainly benefit Nebraska to keep the money in the state and that is what Initiative 429, Initiative 430, and Initiative 431 intend to do.
The 429 initiative is an amendment to the state constitution that would allow games of chance at the state’s racetracks. The state has racetracks, poker clubs, keno halls, and the occasional slot machine house, but no table games and no sports betting.
The ballot initiative reads:
Shall the Nebraska Constitution be amended to state that laws may be enacted to allow for the licensing, authorization, taxation, and regulation of all forms of games of chance to be conducted by authorized gaming operators within licensed racetrack enclosures in Nebraska?
Casino-style gaming was last on the ballot in 2004 and failed.
The other two initiatives are related to the creation of the Nebraska Gaming Commission and the tax rate on gaming revenue getting set at 20%.
There are four tribal gaming facilities in Nebraska and a referendum to the state Constitution would not initially include them, so that would be another hurdle for the state government to pass.
In the event that Initiative 429 passes, it would likely be a while before sports betting made it to Nebraska, but we have seen sports betting operators partner with racetracks around the country, so that wouldn’t be a problem at all. It also remains to be seen if Nebraska would allow for mobile and online betting or just retail wagering.
If Initiative 429 does not go through, it could be a while before sports betting gets on the ballot again and has enough support to get through. Right now, it is too close to call. Because Nebraska has previously rebuffed attempts at casino gaming expansion and additional measures haven’t had enough steam to make it to this point in 16 years, the outlook is cloudy, but the voters at least have the chance to decide.
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 includes the two major cities of Lincoln and Omaha.
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.
Colorado began operations with statewide online and mobile betting in May 2020, 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 and sports betting is on the November 3, 2020 ballot for the town of Deadwood.
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. Even if Initiative 429 passes to expand casino gaming in Nebraska to include “Games of Chance”, it will be a while before Nebraska gets the infrastructure up and running for sports betting.