Nebraska Sports Betting Quietly Inches Toward Finish Line

Posted on April 28, 2021
Nebraska sports betting
Posted By on April 28, 2021

Nebraska sports betting appears to be on the horizon, but only in-person.

On April 20, the one-house Nebraska Legislature advanced LB 561 for final consideration after a second round of discussion. The bill will require 33 votes when it comes up for its final reading, likely on the agenda in the near future. The legislative session ends June 10.

On the bill’s first reading in March, it passed 37-5.

As part of a broader change in the state’s gaming landscape, retail sports betting in Nebraska would become legal with the bill.

Nebraska sports betting was an unknown

Nebraska voters approved an expansion into casino-style gaming at the state’s six commercial horse racing tracks in November 2020.

Sports betting in Nebraska was not a guarantee at the start of the session.

As legislators started the session to regulate the voters’ approval of “games of chance,” retail sports betting within the casinos was included.

NE sports betting journey

On March 1, the General Affairs Committee created a comprehensive gaming package by merging LB 560 into LB 561.

The package includes a constitutional amendment to allow casino gaming at licensed horse tracks, laws regulating gaming, and tax practices.

Under the bills, the State Racing Commission would merge with a new Nebraska Gaming Commission to form the State Racing and Gaming Commission.

Retail-only for now

NE sports betting is restricted to designated areas at the casinos under the bill.

Last week, legislators voted the keep college wagering in the bill. They approved a separate amendment to prohibit in-play prop bets on college athletes.

What Nebraska sports betting could be worth

The Nebraska Racetrack Gaming Act will tax casino revenue at 20%.

The legislative fiscal note estimates six racetracks will become gaming operators, resulting in approximately $37 million in gross revenue in fiscal year 2021-22. That estimated figure jumps to $245.3 million in fiscal year 2022-23.

Those revenues would generate an estimated $7.4 million and $49.1 million in state taxes, respectively.

Sports betting push in America’s heartland

Nearby Colorado, Iowa and Illinois have seen handle and sports betting revenue grow since launching legal sports betting in the past few years.

Now, Nebraska is just one of many states in middle America considering sports betting legislation in 2021.

Nebraska Sen. Justin Wayne has been a proponent of sports betting to help keep tax dollars in the state rather than crossing the border.

Neighbors pushing forward

This session, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed a law legalizing sports betting in the city of Deadwood. Wyoming will likely launch mobile sports betting this year after a surprise effort by the legislature.

Kansas legislators made a strong push this session, but the effort seemingly stalled indefinitely in March.

Missouri was once viewed as likely to pass legislation in pre-COVID 2020. However, like Kansas, strong efforts seemingly have stalled in recent months.

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Pat Evans

Pat Evans is a Las Vegas-based reporter covering sports business. Evans previously worked at Front Office Sports and the Grand Rapids Business Journal. He has authored two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer.

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