Nebraska Sports Betting Gets Initial Legislative Okay

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Nebraska’s hopes for sports betting at licensed horse race tracks got out of the gate this week when an amended racino bill received first-round legislative approval.

State lawmakers voted 31-10 on Wednesday to add sports wagering to a bill that proposes casino gaming at six existing licensed race tracks. The proposal made headway this year after Nebraskans authorized all forms of games of chance at the tracks at the polls last November.

Lawmakers who didn’t support the sports-betting amendment in the first round say that the ballot question was unrelated to sports wagering. Those who are firmly in the sports-betting camp, however, say all games of chance includes sports wagers – and they are citing a recent Nebraska Attorney General’s opinion to back them up.

How Sports Betting in Nebraska Would Work

If sports betting makes it through the next two voting rounds in the state legislature and into law, there would be restrictions on where and how the process would work.  Here’s what we know from the amendment itself:

  • Sports bets would have to be placed in-person in designated areas at the race tracks. Bets could be made through kiosks or other methods approved by the Nebraska Gaming Commission.
  • Sports betting operators would have to ensure that bettors are physically in a designated betting area when placing a wager. Technology would be required to reject players outside of that area.
  • Authorized sports betting would include wagers on professional, collegiate, and international sports, professional motor racing, a professional sports draft, individual sports award, and simulated games.
  • Authorized sports betting would not include pari-mutuel wagers, fantasy sports contests, minor league sporting events, interscholastic sports or events, or any sporting event with participants under age 18.
  • No prop bets would be allowed. That includes wagers on individual athletes competing in collegiate games or matches in which in-state teams are also competing. It also includes bets on performance of athletes in individual international sports events that include competitors under age 18.

What’s Next

Nebraska’s legislative process requires an enrollment and review process after bills are amended. That’s the next stage for the racino bill, which passed 37-5 in the first round after votes on both the sports-betting amendment and a second amendment that would ease keno restrictions.

A second vote on the bill should come later in what the legislature calls the “Select File” stage. It’s at this stage that debate continues. It’s also at this point that a bill may be “indefinitely postponed” or advanced to a third round of voting after another review.

The last stage is the final reading, and final vote. The bill will need 33 votes to pass this stage and have a chance to become law.

About the Author

Rebecca Hanchett

Rebecca Hanchett is a political writer based in Kentucky's Bluegrass region and covers legislative developments at Gaming Today. She worked as a public affairs specialist for 23 years at the Kentucky State Capitol. A University of Kentucky grad, she has been known to watch UK basketball from time to time.

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