ebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a gaming expansion bill into law earlier last week, which makes retail sports betting legal in the state.
Ricketts signed LB 561 into law just days after the state’s unicameral legislature approved the bill by a vote of 44-3. The bill allows the state’s horse racing tracks to open retail sportsbooks and take sports bets. The final iteration of the document did not include online sports betting and will only allow in-person sports betting inside brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.
The legislation allows horse racing tracks to also offer “Las Vegas style” gaming, which Ricketts has opposed in the past. Last year Ricketts wrote a column warning of the social and financial aspects of casino gambling, all while praising the state’s position to remain casino free, as reported by Saturday Tradition. The allure of hitting the jackpot overshadows the more common reality of players going broke chasing the dream of winning it all. In 2017, Americans lost $107 billion from all forms of legalized gambling.
Residents will not be able to place bets on in-state collegiate programs. The Nebraska legislature adopted an amendment to the bill earlier this month to ban sports betting on in-state collegiate programs in hopes of making the needed two-thirds majority vote more palatable. The in-state collegiate sports betting ban will keep gamblers from betting on the popular Nebraska University football program and Creighton University basketball.
Nebraska voters approved three initiatives in the November 2020 general election to allow for a gaming expansion for the state’s six-licensed horse racetracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus and South Sioux City. Votes approved a change to the state constitution that allowed for slot machines and table gaming, as well as two initiatives to regulate casino gaming and tax casino gambling.
The approved bill does not include language for sports betting, but lawmakers have since determined they can encompass potential retail sportsbooks in the state.
Three established casinos already are just up the road from Lincoln and across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and their parking lots have long been filled with vehicles with Nebraska license plates. Other casinos are planned at racetracks in Omaha, Grand Island, South Sioux City, Columbus and Hastings.