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Sports betting simplified
Voters approved LB 561, which approved sports betting in Nebraska. Governor Pete Rickets signed this bill into law on May 27, 2021, officially granting Nebraska's local sports betting market. It took some time, but WarHorse Lincoln became the first Nebraska sportsbook to launch in June 2023. Land-based sports betting in Nebraska is regulated, but they did not approve an in-state online sportsbook market.
State of Nebraska Sports Betting Overview
Mobile sports betting is not in the cards for Nebraska, at least over the short term. The Nebraska sports betting bill initially included provisions authorizing online sportsbooks, but lawmakers stripped the bill of those provisions to get the votes they needed to pass the legislation. Future Nebraska online sports betting efforts will likely require additional legislation and the support of lawmakers who have previously opposed such measures.
The lack of mobile sportsbooks will result in Nebraska collecting fewer sports betting revenue. Mobile sports betting accounts for 80-90% of the total handle in states with legal online sportsbooks. Still, the approval of retail sports betting is an essential first step for a state that has been slow to legalize sports wagering.
Nebraska is home to almost 2,000,000 people and zero state-regulated online sportsbooks. A comparable state size would be West Virginia, which routinely sees handles north of $50,000,000 per month. However, the actual revenue that would be drawn from this would depend on what level of taxation was imposed on it. Nebraska could profit or gross revenue, and they could allow deductions for promotions (a tactic abused by sportsbooks in other states) or not allow them.
The legal sports betting age in Nebraska was set at 21 years old when sports betting was officially regulated. However, licensed online sportsbooks do accept sports betting fans who are at least 18 in Nebraska.
Nebraska has only one land-based sportsbook. After years of finalizing regulations, WarHorse Lincoln launched on June 22, 2023, to become the first sportsbook inside Nebraska to open. There are likely bookies within the state, but they will offer fewer odds and be less reliable. These aren’t approved measures either.
As mobile sports betting remains illegal in Nebraska, daily fantasy sports apps will remain the next closest alternative for residents.
The availability of fantasy sports sites in Nebraska hinges on an interpretation of existing law that views DFS games as contests of chance and exempt from state anti-gambling laws. No one has tested the interpretation in court, but authorities have declined to push the issue. As a result, all major DFS sites accept players from Nebraska.
Lawmakers have made several attempts to legalize daily fantasy sports in Nebraska but have been unable to get anything to stick. LB 469 in 2017, LB 137 in 2019, and LB 990 in 2020 all sought to legalize fantasy sports and enact basic regulations, but all failed to advance.
All three bills failed for various reasons, including disagreements among lawmakers over licensing fees, tax rates, and pressure from anti-gambling groups. The Nebraska Family Alliance has strongly objected to legalization, at one point stating that fantasy sports gambling is simply an online casino under the guise of fantasy football.
Fantasy operators remain active in Nebraska and have faced no action from the state to date but will continue to operate in an uncertain legal environment until lawmakers pass DFS legislation.
State of Nebraska Sports Betting Timeline
June 22, 2023 — WarHorse Casino Lincoln announced its new sportsbook will be open for business as of June 22. WarHorse has partnered with Kambi Group for the launch. Bettors can wager through the betting window or at one of ten betting kiosks.
June 1, 2023 — Nebraska has again pushed its go-live date into the future after missing its planned Memorial Day launch. The newest reported potential date for launch is June 24, the start of the College World Series.
May 5, 2023 — WarHorse Gaming has announced plans to construct a new gaming facility in Omaha while continuing to build its Lincoln facility.
February 1, 2023 — Nebraska Racing and Gaming Executive Director Tom Sage said sports betting technically became legal in Nebraska when the Secretary of State’s Office published recently approved rules. However, the state still lacks the infrastructure for casinos to take any bets.