Nebraska could expand its gambling options to include betting on Husker home football games and other in-state matches played by the state college and university teams, under a bill introduced in the Legislature last week.
Legislative Bill 168 would lift the prohibition in Nebraska’s current sports betting law, while directing tax revenues from those bets into the state’s college scholarship fund. The measure was proposed by state Senator Eliot Bostar of Lincoln.
As reported by Omaha World-Herald, Bostar does not think the current law represents good policy because it makes a distinction based solely on where collegiate teams compete. “This isn’t about expanding gambling. It’s about providing consistency in our statutes,” he said.
The law currently allows sports betting at horse racetrack casinos, but only when bets are placed in person and do not involve Nebraska collegiate teams or athletes competing within the state.
The exemption was included in 2021 to help the bill win support as state lawmakers worked to implement a trio of voter-approved casino gambling measures, which allowed casino gambling at licensed horse tracks and earmarked most of the tax revenue for property tax relief.
Bostar’s proposal would deliver some of that revenue to the Nebraska Opportunity Grant program, which provides need-based aid to students attending post-secondary colleges and universities in the state. Money for the program now comes from state lottery proceeds.
Although the voter-approved measures opened the door for sports betting, no legal bets have been placed in Nebraska yet, while rules and regulations for the activity are pending. Two casinos have opened their doors so far in the jurisdiction: WarHorse Casino in Lincoln and a casino at Grand Island’s Fonner Park.
Temporary Grand Island Casino
The state is inching closer to its sports betting launch, as Tom Sage, Executive Director of the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission, said this week that the framework of rules, which was given the green light by the commissioners in October, has been examined and approved by the Attorney General’s office.
According to Sage, the rules will be sent to the governor's office for review. After Governor Jim Pillen signs them off, the regulations will be presented to the Secretary of State's Office and will become official approximately a week after that.
Sen. Tom Briese.
Earlier this month, a state senator, along with the operator of Lincoln’s WarHorse casino, announced they are targeting so-called 'skill games' to pay the same taxes as slot machines and to begin contributing to lowering property taxes.
State Senator Tom Briese of Albion, who has made property tax relief a top priority, said he will push for a bill in the Legislature this year to tax skill games at the same rate as slot machines, which is 20% of net revenue, and to use it for property tax credits.
These machines have been in bars and restaurants for years, but they are now becoming fixtures in convenience stores and supermarkets, and they are even forming new sorts of stand-alone skill game casinos, independent from the typical slot and table games properties.