Casinos Don't Appear in a Rush to Receive Nebraska Sports Betting Licenses

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Casinos Don't Appear in a Rush to Receive Nebraska Sports Betting Licenses

There is perhaps no weirder state of sports betting affairs than the situation in Nebraska. Yes, sports betting is legal in Nebraska...but you can't yet place wagers. And while the reasons behind the delay are somewhat understandable, the continued lack of clarity and urgency are a different story altogether.

This was supposed to change—if not a long time ago than most certainly in recent weeks. The Cornhusker State just finalized all the operating details on legal sports betting a few weeks ago. At that point, you'd expect the push for the Nebraska sports betting rollout to begin in earnest.

Guess what? It hasn't. This time, however, responsibility for the delay appears to fall on the gambling operators rather than the state. As it stands, casinos don't appear in a rush to receive Nebraska sports betting licenses, even though they're eligible to apply for them.

Consider this the latest in a long line of delays throughout the Nebraska sports gambling process. The Cornhusker State signed legal wagering into law all the way back in May 2021. It took them until 2023, nearly two years later, to settle on the exact details of how it could be implemented. Are Nebraskans in for a similarly drawn-out delay this time around? Or can we expect sports betting to arrive at Nebraska casinos in the near future?

Why Haven't Casinos Started Applying for Nebraska Sports Betting Licenses?

According to 10/11 Now in Nebraska, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission has said that "no casinos have made requests for sports betting approval yet, but that’s soon to change."

That statement is teeming with ambiguity. What does "soon to change" even mean? Why aren't they ready now? We're two years into the legalization of Nebraska sports betting. Even if they weren't equipped (or allowed) to set up wagering operations until now, shouldn't they have spent this extended period getting ready?

As it turns out, Nebraska casinos apparently weren't given that opportunity. The state took a while to approve sports betting vendors and operating systems. It is now on the casinos and racinos to implement them. And after that, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission has to ensure they're compliant with all state-mandated procedures. Only then can Nebraska casinos receive their sports betting licenses.

Knowing all of this, it seems a little counterintuitive for the state to make it seem like residents would be able to wager on sports if the casinos and racinos were actually ready. All of the information we're hearing suggests these establishments weren't given enough time to prepare. And that means the latest Nebraska sports betting delay is once again on the slow-moving policymakers rather than the businesses themselves. 

Plus, it can't help that casinos are also trying to incorporate new gaming laws as well as the state's proposed sports betting infrastructure. And speaking of which...

Nebraska Casinos Making Gradual Progress Toward Expanding Their Gaming Operations

The first table games are reportedly coming to a Nebraska racetrack casino in the near future. Here are the full details, according to Matt Olberding of the Journal Star:

"Up to now, gamblers have only been able to play slot machines at Nebraska’s two racetrack casinos. But that may change soon. The Grand Island Casino Resort wants to expand its temporary operation at Fonner Park to add table games. Vincent Fiala, the casino’s general manager, said it plans to add craps, roulette and blackjack tables to its existing operation. The planned expansion also would include additional slot machines, restrooms on the casino floor, an expanded dining area and space for entertainment on the weekends. The planned changes, Fiala said, will allow guests to 'have as much of a resort experience as they can in the temporary facility,' which currently has about 300 slot machines. The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission will consider the proposal at its April 14 meeting in Columbus."

This development dovetails with the delay of Nebraska sports betting. The state only recently started loosening their casino gaming laws. Many of the casinos—and racinos—are working from temporary locations. They won't be fully operational or able to start thinking about sports betting licenses until they move into permanent quarters.

The Grand Island Casino Resort's push to add table games to their temporary space will be a good gauge for how quickly the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission is prepared to approve significant changes. Will they make racetrack casinos wait until they vacate their temporary grounds? Will they give the green light? And how quickly can the Grand Island Casino Resort get their tables up and running if they're allowed to start using them?

Is There a Realistic Timeline for Nebraska Sports Betting Rollout?

The timeline for a Nebraska sports betting rollout remains the same as ever: nonexistent. Neither the state nor one of their casinos has outlined a concrete one. But we would bet big money against a Nebraska sports betting debut happening in 2023.

Even when the rollout takes place, though, state residents will still face challenges. The biggest one of them all: Nebraskans will not be allowed to bet with one of the top online sportsbooks in the industry. The Cornhusker State only legalized on-site wagering, via betting kiosks, as part of their gambling bill.

This one-platform system is eventually expected to change. Online sports betting is too ubiquitous to remain illegal in any state forever. But if Nebraska's handling of on-site sports betting is any indication, it will be a looooong time before the state actually adds a mobile gambling element.

Take a look at this list of the top online sportsbooks so you can find one that works for all of your sports betting needs:

Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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