Sports betting was officially legalized in Nebraska late last week after Gov. Pete Ricketts signed LB 561 into law.
It seemed more likely that the outspoken anti-gambling governor would allow the bill to pass through inaction, but Ricketts put his signature on the legislation, which will allow Nebraskans to wager on all professional and collegiate athletic events. Bettors will not be allowed to gamble on in-state college sports, however, including home games of the University of Nebraska or Creighton University.
LB 561 passed through the unicameral legislature by a 44-3 margin. The now-law will allow only retail sportsbooks at pari-mutuel facilities to accept sports bets. The bill also created a new gaming commission that will oversee the state’s budding casino market.
Last November, Nebraska citizens voted to allow casino gambling in their state. The ballot initiative allowed for “games of chance” to be offered at the state’s racetracks. Most, if not all, of the pari-mutuels will either be converted to or add a casino to its facilities.
According to a report from The Action Network, these gaming operators will “likely partner” with a third party to run their brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. This will give some of the larger sports betting companies like DraftKings, FanDuel and William Hill access to the Cornhusker State.
While the bill did clarify that sports betting would be allowed, since it was still in a grey area even after the ballot initiative, online betting is not permitted under Nebraska law. The lack of an online betting market will hurt revenue streams of providers and ultimately state coffers.
In most states with both online and retail betting, the overwhelming majority of revenue comes from mobile apps or online books. In New Jersey, one of the largest U.S. sports betting markets, about 92% of the 2020 sports betting handle was placed online.
There is no timeline for the launch of the sports betting market, but most estimates range between the end of 2021 or the start of 2022. With Ricketts’ signature, Nebraska joins South Dakota, Wyoming, New York, Arizona, Maryland and Connecticut as states that have legalized or expanded sports betting this year.