Nebraska lawmakers on Thursday became the latest to develop a framework around sports betting and send it to a governor after voters approved an expansion of gaming. Voters in Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, and South Dakota all approved gaming expansions last November, but at the time, it was unclear whether sports betting was included in the Nebraska referendum which legalized “all games of chance.” Lawmakers ultimately decided to include it.
The bill that ultimately passed the Unicameral Legislature is for retail sports betting only, as mobile/online was stripped on May 13 during heated debate. Betting on Nebraska college teams will also be prohibited. The framework bill, LB 561, passed, 44-3-2, and LB 561A, a companion appropriations bill, passed, 44-2-3. The bills will now be sent to Gov. Pete Ricketts for signature. He has until June 2 to act on the bill, and if he vetoes it, the legislature can try for a veto override by June 3. The session is set to adjourn June 10.
LB 561 was passed with an emergency clause attached, which means that as soon as it is approved, work on regulations and the application process can begin.
College football won’t be king
Multiple states have chosen to ban wagering on local college sports, but none in areas where college football is as much a part of the state’s identity as Nebraska. Illinois is the biggest state by population to ban betting on local college teams and is one of two states with teams in the Big Ten to do so. New Jersey, the other, is considering an amendment that would allow bettors to wager on college teams located in the Garden State. Among the states with Big Ten teams that have live, legal sports betting, all have a mobile option.
The issue of wagering on Nebraska football was part of the debate on May 13 when Sen. Adam Morfeld said, “I don’t like this provision. You can drive to Iowa and place a bet and then go watch the game … or you can place a bet on your phone at the game … but you can’t bet on Nebraska [in Nebraska]. It’s illogical, and I don’t care if 13 states are doing it. What we have in this amendment is illogical, nonsensical, and it’s what 13 states already allow. It makes no sense at all.”
His colleague, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, said in rebuttal, “If people want to go to Iowa to do that, they can keep going to Iowa.”
Nebraska’s eastern neighbor was among the first 10 states to make sports betting legal and launch operators for business. Iowa allows for statewide mobile wagering on professional, college, and Olympic sports, though certain college prop bets are banned. Among Nebraska’s other neighbors, Colorado has one of the most open, competitive markets — both digital and retail — in the nation, and Wyoming recently legalized and will offer a similar situation.
Most states with football programs in Power 5 conferences allow for wagering on local colleges. Virginia and Washington are notable exceptions.