As of May 27, 2021, in-person sports wagering at six of Nebraska’s horse race tracks is now fully legal. In addition, the Nebraska Gaming Commission has recently been formed and will start drawing up rules and regulations to oversee the future industry for a possible 2021 or early 2022 launch.
This is exciting news for fans of sports wagering in Nebraska, who previously had to hop across state borders to Iowa or other states to get their fix and enjoy other gambling activities. However, the recent legislation in Nebraska is not without some downsides, such as the exclusion of mobile gaming or sports wagering.
That being said, this development is still great news for fans of sports betting who hope Nebraska will continue to evolve with the times rather than remain an anti-gambling dinosaur. Let’s take a closer look at the sports betting industry in Nebraska as it stands, how it will develop, and what limitations you can expect before placing your first wagers.
Nebraska Sports Betting Timeline
May 27, 2021:
Governor Pete Ricketts signs LB 561, legalizing the construction of six retail casinos and in-person sports betting at those locations.
March 18, 2021:
The Nebraska state legislature votes to pass LB 561 in both the House and Senate, sending the bill to the governor’s desk.
November 20, 2020:
The people of Nebraska vote to allow the construction of retail casinos and in-person sports betting at those casino locations. The casinos will be constructed at existing racetrack locations throughout the state.
Top Sportsbooks Coming To Nebraska
Speculating on Nebraska’s future sports betting industry is tricky, both because of the limitations the above-mentioned amendment has placed and because of its low population.
Nebraska’s most populous area, Omaha, is split between itself and Iowa. Indeed, Iowa has taken much of the gambling revenue the state might otherwise have enjoyed over the last few years. That state was among the first to approve both brick-and-mortar casinos and online sportsbooks.
Additionally, the legislation will require that any retail sportsbook operators will need to partner with the not yet constructed casinos/racinos. This will limit certain operators from receiving licensure, as larger and more popular sportsbooks will probably be the first to both apply for and be approved for operation in the Cornhusk State.
So, which sportsbooks are likely to come to Nebraska? In our opinion, the two big contenders are DraftKings and FanDuel, both of which currently offer daily fantasy sports to Nebraska residents. Since both of these sportsbooks are already known to Nebraska’s population, they might enjoy early popularity if they launch retail sportsbook operations as well.
However, there are other sportsbook operators that could pursue licensure to expand their market domination in the American heartland. These include operators like:
But it’s still impossible to say which sportsbooks will launch with any certainty at this time. Amendment LB 561 does not have any provisions for “skins” or extra sportsbook licenses for mobile operators partnered with/tethered to retail casinos. Thus, each casino may only be able to partner with one sportsbook, leaving the grand total potential competing sportsbooks at six.
This lack of intense competition may also lead to subpar revenue streams or a less than player-friendly sportsbook environment. Time will tell which sportsbooks launch in Nebraska and how the limited selection will affect this future industry.
How To Place A Bet In Nebraska
Mobile sports betting is still illegal in Nebraska and likely won’t be legalized for at least a year and a half to two years from now. It’ll take some time for the state government to change its mind about legalizing mobile sports wagers.
However, given that most other states report that 80% of their tax revenue comes from mobile bets rather than in-person wagers, we think it’s likely Nebraska will eventually change its tune on this point. Therefore, let’s break down how you will likely be able to place a bet in Nebraska if and when mobile sports betting finally comes to this state.
Download An App
As with any mobile sportsbook, you’ll first need to download the app to your phone or tablet. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll easily be able to download the app of your choice from the Apple App Store. Installation should begin automatically, synchronized with the installation of geolocation software to prevent you from placing a wager outside Nebraska state lines.
Android users may need to navigate to the desktop website of their choice sportsbook. However, the Google Play store is increasingly allowing sportsbook operators to put their apps on its platform. By the time mobile wagering comes to Nebraska, Android users may be able to download their favorite sportsbooks right to their phones from the Play store without having to go through a more complex process involving the desktop site.
Register For The Sportsbook
Once you’ve downloaded your sportsbook, you’ll be able to register for it by opening it and giving the book operator some personal information. They usually request your physical address, date of birth, and other information to verify your identity.
Registration should be quick and simple and only take a few minutes. However, it’s possible Nebraska’s future mobile sports betting legislation will require an in-person visit to a partnered sportsbook location to complete registration.
If this is the case, you’ll then need to visit the partnered casino or retail sportsbook to complete registration and verify your identity before you can fund your account. Note that this approach is possible but unlikely given that only a couple of states have implemented it so far and to general unpopularity.
Fund Your Account
Funding your account will be quick and simple, as any sportsbooks available for download in Nebraska will offer a variety of deposit methods ranging from credit or debit card transfers to electronic bank transfers and more.
The exact deposit and withdrawal methods available to you are dependent on the sportsbook you choose to download. Regardless, be sure to consider your initial deposit amount carefully, as certain opening bonuses or special offers are contingent on you depositing a certain amount.
Place A Bet
Once you’ve funded your sportsbook app account, you can start placing bets by navigating to different betting markets or lines at your leisure.
Nebraska Legal Sportsbooks
Given that legal sportsbooks are now a number of months to a year away, there’s no reason to check out offshore or illegal sportsbooks. Legal sportsbooks in Nebraska will be overseen by the Nebraska Gaming Commission, a new regulatory body that will investigate each applying operator and make sure that they offer bets fairly.
Offshore and illegal sportsbook apps, in contrast, aren’t overseen or regulated by anybody. This certainly means that your personal information and any funds you provide them are at serious risk for theft, either by the illegal sportsbook operator itself or by other hackers.
The legal sportsbooks soon to be constructed will offer player-friendly betting odds, comfortable areas where you can watch games and enjoy casino activities, and security most of all. Your winnings and funds will be kept in secure cash cages to be retrieved at your convenience.
Bottom line: ignore the temptation to check out an offshore or illegal sportsbook site. Legal sportsbooks are just around the corner and are much better bets.
Nebraska’s Sports Betting Revenue
Nebraska is not a very populous state, and the lack of mobile sports betting options will undoubtedly limit the revenue the state government can expect. However, we can also look at neighboring Iowa, which is a much more robust and developed sports betting industry, to get an idea of the revenue Nebraska’s sports wagering options may bring in once the industry fully launches.
March 2021 saw Iowa’s state government benefit from over $13 million in tax revenue from combined mobile and in-person bets. It’s unlikely Nebraska will reach this amount, as mobile bets are still illegal. But some millions of dollars are not out of the question, particularly if the sportsbooks are well constructed and are operated by popular companies like DraftKings.
How Nebraska Compares To Other States
At the moment, Nebraska compares pretty poorly to other states no matter how you look at their gambling industry. For starters, retail casinos are only available in a handful of locations (for now) – the construction of six commercial casinos will definitely improve gambling options for most enthusiasts. Previously, they had to be content with the Native American casinos scattered throughout the state.
Horse race wagering has been available for decades through the pari-mutuel betting model, and online wagers can be placed through off-track betting parlors or apps like TVG. However, Nebraska is still firmly against online wagering activities of any kind besides horse race betting, including online casino games, online poker, and online sports betting.
The state does include a lottery that can only be played through purchasing in-person tickets. All in all, Nebraska’s gambling industry could certainly improve, especially compared to Iowa.
Nebraska Sports Betting Recent Updates
For years, it looks like sports betting would be but a dream for fans of the activity in Nebraska, even after the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in 2018. However, the 2020 election cycle saw the opportunity for an amendment to the state constitution.
November 2020 Nebraska Referndum
Nebraska legislators were able to place two gambling initiatives on the November 2020 ballot. One of these authorized gambling operations at race tracks (effectively turning several horse race tracks into racetrack/casino hybrids called “racinos), as well as the development of the Nebraska Gaming Commission to serve as an authoritative body for the industry.
The second initiative authorized casino-style gaming at those horse race tracks, including “Vegas-style” games like blackjack and slot machines. Luckily for fans of sports betting and other gambling activities, both measures passed on the November 2020 ballot.
Nebraska Lawmakers Consider Sports Betting
This kicked the responsibility to legalize sports betting and casino games to the Nebraska Legislature. It took several months, but on March 18, 2021, the Nebraska Legislature finally approved a prospective bill that would permit retail sports betting and exclude mobile wagering activities, as well as ban any wagers on in-state college games or teams.
LB 561 was quickly sent to the desk of Gov. Pete Ricketts after being passed in both the House and Senate. The governor had until June 2 to either sign or veto the bill, but lawmakers had no need to worry about overwriting a veto decision.
Legalizing Retail Betting In Nebraska
The governor signed the bill on May 27, 2021, legalizing in-person retail wagers on approved racetracks. The amendment contains the following specifics and provisions:
- Sports bets are only allowed in designated areas in person at approved racetracks. Sports bets will be made through either kiosks or other to be announced methods via the Nebraska Gaming Commission.
- All sports betting operators are required to ensure that bettors are in physically designated wagering areas when placing bets.
- Authorized sports bets include wagers on professional, collegiate, and international sports, individual sports awards, simulated games, and other activities.
- Meanwhile, prop bets remain illegal and no wagers will be allowed for individual athletes competing in collegiate games or any college game matches that include in-state teams.
- The state will levy a 20% tax on all casino gaming revenue.
Sportsbook Rules And Regulations
At the time of this writing, the Nebraska Gaming Commission has only just begun formulating the rules and regulations that will control the future industry. Additionally, the lack of mobile sports betting legalization will certainly hurt this industry in the future, as it will limit participation from sports bettors.
However, the legislation may have been drafted this way to ensure it would pass. Proponents of sports betting legalization might have believed that it was more important to legalize sports wagering if they could rather than get a perfect bill on the first try.
This may end up being a good strategy in the long run. It will be easier for the legislature to amend or expand the sports wagering industry once it launches than it will be to launch a fully mobile and retail sports betting industry from nothing.
No prospective launch dates have been announced at this time, nor have any sportsbooks announced licensure or partnerships. However, it’s likely that the Nebraska Legislature will attempt to launch in-person sports betting by the end of 2021 to benefit from football season tax revenue.
Where Will Nebraska Sportsbooks Be Located
These are the six racetracks where casinos will be constructed (and where retail sportsbooks will crop up as well):
- Atokad in South Sioux City
- Fairplay Park in Hastings
- Lincoln Race Course in Lincoln
- Horseman’s Park in Omaha
- Agricultural Park in Columbus
- Fonner Park in Grand Island
Although Nebraska has a handful of Native American-run brick-and-mortar casinos in operation at this time, sportsbooks will not launch at these locations.
Nebraska Betting Successes And Failures
Nebraska’s sports betting industry is still young, though it already has some major flaws that are easy targets for correcting in the future.
Nebraska Sports Betting Success
The biggest success for Nebraska sports betting so far is that it was legalized at all. While many other states like Iowa and Colorado jumped at the chance to authorize online and retail sports betting, it took Nebraska multiple years just to get retail sports betting legislation out the door.
Thus, Nebraska residents are only just now anticipating the launch of the sports betting industry that doesn’t require them to hop across state lines.
Where Could Nebraska Improve Online Gambling
There are lots of areas where Nebraska could improve its online gambling industry – namely, it could launch one in the first place. At this time, only online horse race bets are permitted at off-track betting parlors.
That means there are no online sports bets, poker games, or casino activities aside from sweepstakes casino and poker sites. Nebraska could bring in much more revenue and significantly expand its sports betting industry by authorizing mobile operators.
However, it’s unlikely the state government will proceed with this development until it sees how the retail industry fares.
Legalization Effort In Nebraska
Nebraska’s sports betting legalization effort has been fraught with roadblocks of convocations, and a lot of democratic compromise. It began several years ago when the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, but progress was repeatedly stymied by certain senators or other congressional representatives.
It seems that Nebraska’s pro-betting legislators decided to compromise to better their odds of passing legislation, as they opted to not place mobile wagering on the November 2020 ballot. Nothing technically stopped them from offering the option for mobile wagering, but they knew it was possible that, even if the Nebraska public voted to approve mobile wagering, any future legislation would be stalled or ignored if it included provisions for online bets.
As a result, Nebraska’s November 2020 provisions included only the possibility for the construction of retail casinos and in-person sports bets. The provisions passed, and eventually, LB 561 passed as well with Gov. Pete Ricketts’ signature.
Further evidence of compromise can be seen in the ban for wagers involving in-state college teams. One senator, Patty Pansing Brooks, argued that collegiate gambling could ruin the atmosphere for football games. Thus, they ensured that prop bets and in-state collegiate bets would remain illegal even as in-person sports wagering went forward.
This may cost the upcoming retail sportsbooks significant traffic and the state lots of revenue. But as with the ban on prop bets and the exclusion of mobile wagering from the initial amendment, changes can always be made in the future to expand the industry after it launches.
As you can see, Nebraska’s sports betting legalization effort has been hard-fought and only partially won. But it’s a good sign of future developments that state legislatures are still working on expanding gambling opportunities in their state.
With luck, Nebraska may have a more fully developed gambling and online sports betting industry in another few years.
As they are in many heartland or Midwest states, sports are a big deal for Nebraska and its residents. Unfortunately, Nebraska’s limitations on college betting will likely limit the popularity of sports betting in the immediate future.
Nebraska Professional Sports Teams
Given the future sports wagering industry’s limitations, professional sports bets will be the most popular choice for sports wagering enthusiasts in Nebraska. Professional sports bets will be available for all major American sports leagues and games, including the NFL, NBA, MLB, and other leagues.
Furthermore, the retail sportsbooks to be constructed will allow the placing of most wager types including spread bets, total bets, futures bets, and moneyline bets.
College Sports Teams In Nebraska
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are undoubtedly the most popular college team for wagers. But since Nebraska has banned wagers on any in-state college teams, Nebraska residents wanting to support their favorite teams will have to travel to states like Iowa or Colorado if they want to put money down on their performance.
However, Nebraska residents will still be able to place wagers on any college games that take place out-of-state and do not involve the Cornhuskers or other in-state teams. College basketball, football, and baseball games are likely to be among the most popular betting markets for collegiate sports bettors.
Other Sports To Wager On In Nebraska
Aside from major professional sports and out-of-state college sports, Nebraska sports bettors will also be able to wager on other professional or competitive activities like NASCAR or motocross races, MMA or UFC fights, darts, cricket, rugby, and a variety of other international sports.
The exact betting markets available will depend on the retail sportsbooks that are constructed. Some books may even offer esports wagers, which were not outlawed by the Nebraska amendment.
Nebraska Sports Betting FAQs
No. At the moment, only retail or in-person sports wagering is legal, but there aren’t any sportsbooks up and running quite yet. Once these retail operations launch, the state government may decide to expand sports betting to include mobile operations over the next couple of years.
Yes. Once the industry launches, bets on out-of-state college teams or games will be permitted. But you will not be able to place wagers on in-state college teams or any games that involve those teams.
Nebraska’s legal sports betting age will be 21 once the industry launches.
The Nebraska Gaming Commission is a newly formed organization responsible for retail sports betting regulation. Should online sports betting come to this state, they will undoubtedly also be in charge of regulating that aspect of the industry.
Nebraska will allow you to bet on most professional games and leagues, as well as other activities like NASCAR races, MMA fights, and international sports.
DraftKings only offers daily fantasy sports in Nebraska. But it’s likely this operator will pursue licensure at the earliest available opportunity and offer retail sports betting as well.