Nebraska Sports Betting is Officially Legal...But You Can't Place Any Wagers

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Feb 6, 2023 07:00 PM
Nebraska Sports Betting is Officially Legal...But You Can't Place Any Wagers

At long last, sports betting in Nebraska is officially legal. But here's the catch: The state still isn't equipped to accept any wagers. And what's more, they don't have a concrete date for when that will change. Confused? You're not alone. Mass confusion is the default status quo for Nebraska sports betting.

Many who are reading this may actually think the Cornhusker State already green lit sports wagering. They're not wrong. Nebraska signed a sports betting bill into law all the way back in May 2021. However, that "law" had yet to take effect. The signing was more like a symbolic gesture. It meant Nebraska sports betting would be legalized eventually, after the final framework and terms were agreed upon. The signed "law" was essentially a fluid baseline.

As of February 1, 2023, this has all technically changed. The terms of wagering in the Cornhusker State have been etched in stone. And yet, the Nebraska sports betting legalization still feels more symbolic than actualized. The state has now approved the acceptance of wagers—without truly being set up to take them.

What does this all mean? And when will it change? Let's wade into the weeds.

Nebraska Sports Betting Still Waiting on State "Infrastructure"

How can a state legalize sports betting without actually allowing residents to, you know, bet on sports? In this case, it's semantics. The official legalization of sports betting in Nebraska merely represents the release of definitive rules and procedures. But as the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Executive Director, Tom Sage, recently explained to the media, the state still isn't ready to put those rules and procedures into practice. Here's the lowdown, courtesy of Matt Olberding from the Lincoln Journal Star:

"Nebraska Racing and Gaming Executive Director Tom Sage said sports betting technically became legal on Wednesday after the Secretary of State's Office published recently approved rules, but there is not yet infrastructure in place at the state's licensed casinos to take any bets. Under Nebraska law, sports betting must take place in person in licensed casinos at the state's horse racing tracks. Only two of those are currently operating: WarHorse Casino in Lincoln and Elite Casino Resorts in Grand Island. Sage said those operations still have some hoops to jump through to accept sports wagers. For example, they must apply for and be granted a vendor license for whoever is going to run their sports betting operations, and the commission also will have to inspect and approve whatever equipment they use."

This state of flux has rankled many Nebraskans. They won't be able to partake in betting on the 2023 Super Bowl, the most popular wagering event in North American sports. The big game is set to kick off on Sunday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m. EST. Nebraska's sports betting infrastructure has no chance of being set up by then. Officials have hinted that Nebraskans might not even be allowed to bet on March Madness next month.

Perhaps this wouldn't be such a bummer if there clearly wasn't an ulterior goal. Nebraska wouldn't have pushed for this timing of sports betting "legalization" if it didn't want to capitalize on 2023 Super Bowl betting. Their sports wagering bill calls for a 20 percent tax on licensed gambling operators. They stood to make a bunch of money if the debut of legal betting coincided with the country's most popular sporting event. The fact that they officially "legalized" sports less than two weeks before the Super Bowl suggests they wanted to time the release around it—and then failed.

Frankly, this is sobering news. Knowing the financial stakes, the state must be fairly far away from rolling out the Nebraska sports betting launch. Otherwise, they surely would have pushed for a "soft launch" or done anything, at all, to ensure they could reap the benefits from betting on the Super Bowl.

Sports Betting Launch in Nebraska Could Still be a Ways Off

As it turns out, any concern about the immediate future of Nebraska sports betting is well-founded. Various officials are making it sound like the launch won't be happening anytime soon, in large part because of the limitations of its legalization.

According to Nebraska law, all sports betting must take place on-site in licensed casinos located at one of the state's horse racing tracks. That rules out online sports betting. Complicated still, only two of those horse-track casinos are presently up and running: The WarHorse Casino in Lincoln and Elite Casino Resorts in Grand Island.

When asked about when these two casinos would be able to accept bets, Mr. Sage didn't sound too optimistic. "They're not close, from my understanding," he said, per the Lincoln Journal Star. His sentiments were then backed up by CEO of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Lynne McNally, who said the casinos were at least a "few weeks" away from having their licenses approved and enacted.

This doesn't bode well for anyone in Nebraska who is hoping to bet on March Madness, let alone the upcoming Super Bowl. If residents want to place any wagers on imminent sporting events, they're best served going through our reviews of the top online sportsbooksMany of these reputable sites allow anyone in the United States to set up and service an account.

Aside from exploring alternatives, there isn't much Nebraskans can do—other than hope the state's casinos are fully licensed and able to accept sports bets in time for the start of the 2023 MLB season, the 2023 NBA playoffs, 2023 NHL postseason and all the other major sporting events on the schedule following the month of March.

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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