The Nebraska legislature approved sports betting at racinos in 2021. Now some lawmakers are taking another look at the state’s gaming law, just months from an anticipated retail launch.
One of those lawmakers is Nebraska Sen. Tom Briese, who introduced a bill (LB 876) on Jan. 7 that would require a 50-mile radius between proposed racinos and established racinos in the Cornhusker State.
Briese was lead sponsor of the 2021 bill that legalized sports betting at licensed racetracks in Nebraska.
Applicants for gaming operator licenses at new tracks would have to provide “proof that the proposed licensed racetrack enclosure … is located a minimum of 50 miles away from any other track that contains a licensed racetrack enclosure currently operating games of chance,” says the proposal. Sports betting is defined as a game of chance under Nebraska law.
At least five new racetracks with casino gaming are proposed in Nebraska, and more proposals are likely.
Six existing Nebraska racetracks would not have to meet the 50-mile rule. Those tracks are located in South Sioux City, Columbus, Grand Island, Hastings, Omaha, and Lincoln.
Other Provisions That Could Impact Nebraska Sports Betting
Additionally, Briese’s bill proposes a set number of live race days at tracks and racinos starting in 2026. Failure to hold the required number of race days could put authorized gaming operators out of business – at least for a while.
“The authorized gaming operator may be required to cease operating games of chance at such licensed racetrack enclosure for a period of time as determined by the (state racing and gaming) commission” if not enough race days are held, the bill states.
When Will Nebraska Sports Betting Launch?
Nebraska sports betting was expected to launch in late 2021 or early 2022. Now, it appears, a launch could be several months away.
Lynne McNally, vice president of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, told Nebraska’s KETV last year some facilities may not open until late 2022 due to rising construction costs.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a very long time,” she said. “Our patrons are extremely impatient. They want these casinos up and going right now.”
Only retail sportsbooks will be legal when Nebraska does go live, and only at approved racetracks with licensed gaming operations.
Further legislative action will be needed to legalize mobile sports betting in the state.
Nebraska legalized sports betting on May 27, 2021 when legislation allowing in-person wagers at racetracks was signed into law by Gov. Pete Ricketts. The legislation followed 2020 voter approval of full-scale casino gaming – including sportsbooks – at licensed racetracks.