Lawmakers added an in-state college wagering ban to a bill allowing Nebraska sports betting with the hope of ensuring passage.
On Thursday, the one-chamber legislature adopted an amendment to prohibit sports betting in Nebraska on in-state college teams. The amendment is on LB 561, an expansive bill reshaping Nebraska gaming by creating six casinos at the state’s horse racing tracks.
Legislators rejected a similar amendment last month when the bill advanced to its final reading. Since then, legislators twice removed LB 561 from a final vote for specific amendments.
The Nebraska legislature wraps up June 10.
Nebraska rush for two-thirds vote
LB 561 advanced past its first reading in March, 37-5.
Since it was placed on final reading the first time, it was twice removed for amendments. The first removed protections for Keno parlors in bars and restaurants.
In the amendment Thursday, legislators adopted the ban on betting on in-state colleges as insurance to reach the needed two-thirds vote.
Ban on college sports betting
In previous discussions on the bill, senators discussed the potential negative impact of betting on in-state teams. The worries center on how fans might take it out on a team if the team makes a decision such as not running up the score to reach the point spread.
Some other states also ban in-state betting, like Illinois. Opponents of the ban say the betting is ongoing, just through illegal offshore books and bookies. Eager bettors could also head across the border to a neighboring state offering the bets, like Iowa.
In a recent hearing suggesting a repeal of the ban in Illinois, iDEA Growth spokesperson John Pappas said in-state bans limit a market by up to 15%. Some experts even question the legality of such bans in state laws.
Reshaping Nebraska gaming
In November 2020, voters in the state approved an expansion into casino-style gaming at the state’s six commercial horse racing tracks.
Sports betting was not explicitly in the ballot question.
Legislators have so far included retail sports betting in the approval of “games of chance.”
Heavy tax on Nebraska sports betting
The state would levy a 20% tax on casino revenue, including from retail NE sports betting. Expanding to mobile could greatly increase revenue from sports betting.
A legislative fiscal note from March 17 projects the six casinos could generate up to $245.3 million in the 2022-23 fiscal year.
That would funnel $49.1 million in taxes to the state.