While sports betting has been legal in Nebraska since 2021 there have yet to be any wagers placed in the state. Former Governor Pete Ricketts signed bill LB561 on May 25, 2021. But a delay in betting has been caused by multiple factors including a lack of betting infrastructure, little motivation from state lawmakers, and disputes regarding sports betting regulations.
One of the biggest setbacks and obstacles for getting bets placed in the state is the lack of infrastructure. As the sports betting bill currently is written, only in-person bets are allowed to be placed with no online options allowed such as FanDuel or DraftKings.
Additionally, casino gambling has only been legal in the state since 2020 and there are only two major casinos in the state, the newly built Warhorse casino in Lincoln along with the Elite Casino Resort in Grand Island. There are plans in place to build another Warhorse Casino in Omaha, but it is not set to open until 2024.
With no set start date for operation Nebraska bettors are left waiting and searching for alternatives as progress is slowly made to make sports betting operational in the state.
According to UNL professor Brian Petrotta one of the things that Nebraska did right when it came to legalizing sports betting was making it a voter initiative that citizens could vote to pass. However, that voting initiative passed nearly two and a half years ago at this point and very little progress has been made since.
“There has been tepid reception from the state legislators even though the previous and current governor have signed off on it,” Petrotta said. “There is not a lot of motivation from the legislators to push this through and get it operational.”
Kansas, a neighboring state, legalized sports betting nearly one year after Nebraska, and it only took three months for sports betting to become operational. Out of all the states that border Nebraska, Missouri is the only state that doesn’t allow sports betting of any kind.
Another ongoing battle with sports betting is regarding bill LB168. This bill aims to allow bets to be placed on in-state college athletic events with the revenue created going towards the Nebraska Opportunity Grant. With no professional sports teams in the state, it is certain betting on the Cornhuskers would be a popular option for Nebraska residents.
“It feels to me that the current law is a little performative,” Petrotta said. “We are going to do this to show that we are protecting our games and our teams but in reality, it does none of that.”
With no physical betting mechanisms along with no online betting, Nebraska bettors like Blake Terry of Omaha have to cross state lines into Iowa if they want to wager on any games or player props.
Terry said he does most of his betting during football season and that he goes to Iowa to place his bets around once a week. He says he would probably bet more if he did not have to leave the state and it was more accessible in Nebraska.
“I like to put a limit on my betting and going once a week helps me do that,” Terry said. “I never like to bet over $100 because anything can happen in sports.”
Part of the initial voter initiative for sports betting was that a majority of the tax profits would go towards property tax relief for the citizens of the state. However, it has been nearly two and a half years since it was agreed to by voters and there is nothing to show for it.
“There are lots of things that money could be used for,” Terry said. “I’d like to see it go towards roads or school lunches along with lowering the property tax.”
While many Nebraskans wait for the betting infrastructure to be put into place there are some alternative options that are available. One of these options is a daily fantasy sports app called PrizePicks which allows users to bet on certain player props.
“I like the simplicity of the app and that it is easy to navigate because it has a good user interface,” UNL student and avid sports bettor Sage Schulte said. “All you have to do is pick which players you want to do good or bad and then parlay that.”
PrizePicks operates on a thin line operating under the daily fantasy sports tag as some would consider it to be gambling.
“PrizePicks and other similar apps are a real gray area,” Petrotta said. “It should technically be illegal according to how the current laws are written but we will have to wait and see what the courts have to say.”
While you cannot create your own bets, PrizePicks offers an accessible online alternative that serves the needs of many bettors.
Schulte is originally from Colorado where online sports betting and he said that PirzePicks was the best alternative option he could find. While he said that it isn’t as good as a traditional sportsbook it is better than driving to Iowa to place bets.
While Nebraska bettors wait for the infrastructure to be put in place to make sports betting operational in the state they will have to continue using alternative methods for the time being. The next steps for sports betting to become operational is for state lawmakers and the Nebraska Gaming Commission to agree on regulations and for Nebraska Casinos to obtain licenses and betting kiosks.