Why Nebraska Online Sports Betting May Not be Legalized for a While

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Aug 14, 2023 12:00 AM
Why isn't Nebraska online sports betting legal?

Evidence continues to mount that Nebraska online sports betting will not be legalized anytime soon.

On the one hand, the issue of mobile wagering won’t strike many as center state material right now. After all, on-site sports betting in Nebraska just debuted on June 22, 2023. That process alone proved extremely lengthy. The Cornhusker State signed sports gambling into law all the way back in May 2023. It took over two years for them to set up an infrastructure, including regulatory procedures, and ultimately roll out in-person wagering. Less than two months into the active Nebraska sports gambling era, should we really expect them to expand their gaming options? 

Still, the matter of online sports betting isn’t strictly about the present. On the contrary, the state’s view on it is more noteworthy because of what it means for the bigger picture. Because as things stand down, in the summer of 2023, it doesn’t seem like Nebraska online sports betting has a puncher’s chance of getting legalized anytime soon.

Officials Remain Concerned That Nebraska Sports Betting will Do More Harm Than Good

Discussions about online sports betting invariably focus on the financial benefits. Nebraska policymakers have questioned whether there would be a material gain by expanding operations. But that’s not the only concern. Nor is it even the primary worry.

The accessibility of online sports betting has more recently moved to the forefront of this debate. More specifically, it’s an issue of overexposure. 

Skeptics of mobile wagering wonder if giving residents unfettered access to the best online sportsbooks in the United States will lead to a dramatic uptick in gambling addiction as well as underage gambling. Both of these concerns were seemingly validated in a recent feature over at Nebraska Public Media. The author, Dylan Lysen, spoke with psychiatrist Timothy Fong, the co-director of the UCLA Sports Gambling Studies Program, who confirmed there is indeed a correlation between online sports betting access and an increase in gambling addiction:

Legal sports betting apps take away the human connection required to place a wager, obscuring the weight of what some bettors are putting on the line when they place high-priced bets. ‘The access, availability, anonymity,” Fong said, ‘and the fact that you can do this all the time and constantly get new opportunities makes it potentially addictive…If I'm online, I'm just firing away bets. There is no third party person who's going to intervene and say, ‘Hey, this is too much.’”

Fong’s sentiments were backed up by another expert in the field: Shane Kraus, who is a psychologist studying gambling addiction for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In fact, in that same piece appearing on Nebraska Public Media, he took Fong’s concerns one step further:

“Kraus said there’s not enough research yet to show how that is affecting problem gambling. But he suspects the rapid expansion of the industry and onslaught of advertising for online casinos could be a recipe for disaster. And if proper safeguards aren’t put in place, the country could be in the early days of an epidemic. ‘I could see this being like opioids and the pharmaceutical companies,’ Kraus said, ‘where 10 years from now there's just massive litigation and settlements.’”

Is There a Middle Ground for Online Sports Betting in Nebraska?

As Kraus alluded to in the article, more studies must be done to fully understand the impact legal online sports betting has on gambling addiction. There’ve been a couple of polls that show problem gambling hotlines wind up experiencing an uptick in volume following legalization, but the sports betting industry isn’t necessarily old enough to draw the most profound conclusions.

Still, these red flags have been echoed by many lawmakers in The Cornhusker State, particularly on the Republican side. They don’t see the financial benefits outweighing the moral hazard imposed by 24/7 remote access to sportsbooks. And they believe that in-person wagering in Nebraska can be more effectively monitored

Considering how conservative the state typically skews, this sentiment is essentially a death knell for Nebraska online sports betting hopes—at least for the time being. An entire party’s stance may need to change on this issue before it becomes more of a discussion. And for that to even happen, there needs to be some type of middle ground, as well as a willingness to find it.

Could this mean Nebraska devotes more sports betting revenue to problem gambling services? Does it mean they spearhead research into how online wagering impacts addiction and underage gambling? Could more heavily policing advertisements of gambling operators, like we’ve seen with sports betting in Massachusetts? Time will tell. And for what it’s worth, when Nebraska sports betting officially launched in June, a handful of experts and state officials mused about reevaluating the current gaming laws at the next round of legislative sessions. In-person wagering, after all, almost always leads to a discussion about the next natural progression (online gambling).

However, it would be unwise to expect wholesale changes anytime soon. The on-site sports betting market in Nebraska remains in its infancy. They’ll want to measure its impact on the economy and the effectiveness of its deployment before reconsidering what is a pretty hardline stance against online sports betting. And at minimum, this is a process we would expect to take years.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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