Nebraska Sports Betting Launch Could be Delayed Until 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Apr 9, 2024 08:00 PM
Nebraska Sports Betting Launch Could be Delayed Until 2024

One of these days, the latest news for legal sports betting in Nebraska will include a definitive timeline for its rollout. Unfortunately, today is not that day. On the contrary, it actually looks like the Nebraska sports betting launch won't be taking place until sometime in 2024.

This doesn't technically qualify as a delay. Nebraska signed a bill into law that allowed in-person sports betting all the way back in May 2021 and has never once provided a specific start date over the past year-and-change. 

Still, heading into the end of November, it sounded like the Nebraska sports betting launch was months away. A 2023 rollout date would mean that it's more than a year into the distance. And that's assuming this timeline is the slightest bit accurate. All Nebraska sports betting timelines have so far proven to be incorrect—and overly ambitious.

By this point, it's fair to question what's going on. Why is Nebraska taking so long to wrap up a process they already legalized? Is something wrong? Is this just how long the process is taking? And how seriously should we view the latest timeline? Let's dig in.

Nebraska Sports Betting Launch Making Incremental Progress

Although a 2024 launch date isn't what sports betting enthusiasts want to hear, at least we know Nebraska has not tabled or forgotten entirely about this matter. Progress is being made—slowly, but surely.

Most recently, the Cornhusker State finally settled on a concrete list of compliance guidelines. As Jill R. Dorson wrote for "The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission on Friday afternoon unanimously approved a revised set of retail sports betting regulations, paving the way for live betting in the state—though it’s unclear when the first bets could be taken. The approval came nearly two years after Nebraska voters legalized 'games of chance,' which ultimately included wagering at brick-and-mortar facilities."

Once more, you'll want to note the absence of a timeline for implementing these live-betting policies. Even when Nebraska is decisive in the micro, it remains noncommittal about their plans for the macro. And to that end, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission hasn't explicitly laid out why this process is taking so long.

Granted, experts throughout the industry believe it's an accessibility dilemma. But is that really the case?

There Aren't Enough Gaming Establishments for Nebraska to Effectively Rollout Sports Betting Just Yet

Unlike most other states to legalize sports betting, Nebraska is working from a completely blank slate. They didn't have any gaming in the state whatsoever until the War Horse Casino - Lincoln opened this past year, making it the region's first legal gambling facility.

And yet, the casino in Lincoln isn't currently set up for anything more than slot machines. They inevitably plan to offer table games and are supposed to set up a sportsbook, but they were unable to plan for the latter until the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission hashed out their official regulations.

Complicated still, Nebraska continues to wait on other gaming establishments to open throughout the state. Ho-Chunk, Inc., is responsible for overseeing the War Horse Casino and two other in-progress casinos: the Horseman's Park in Omaha and Atokad Downs in South Sioux City. Until all of these places are open for business, Nebraska couldn't make on-site wagering accessible to the vast majority of the state even if they wanted to. 

Yes, Nebraska does have five other casinos peppered throughout the state. But those are currently only set up to offer glorified digital bingo games. And while racetracks throughout the state will be able to apply for gaming licenses, Nebraska hasn't actually opened up the field of submissions just yet. 

Is a 2024 Nebraska Sports Betting Rollout Possible?

To make matters more convoluted, Nebraska cannot open the sports betting gates by leaning on mobile apps. Online sports betting was not part of the legal agreement they signed in 2021. That gaming compact limits the state's offering to on-site sportsbooks...which Nebraska is still waiting to physically have.

It'll be interesting to see whether Nebraska reconsiders their position. They can't hope to stop online sports betting entirely, after all. Many of the top reviewed online sportsbooks allow people from the Cornhusker State to create and service their own account. And you better believe there are plenty of people who have gone that route—especially over the past two years, after Nebraska legalized sports without actually implementing it. It's been like a tease for everyone hoping to bet on sports. They're waiting on pins and needles, without any semblance of direction or information, which naturally leads them to seek alternatives.

That brings us back to the projected-yet-still-hazy start date. It has historically taken states one year to 18 months to roll out sports betting once they put their rules and regulations in place. Knowing that Nebraska finalized those just before Thanksgiving, a full year would bring us to November 2023.

So, yes, it's entirely possible Nebraska legal sports betting will be up and running by 2024. But it's also possible it won't be. It really feels like the timeline for Nebraska sports betting will be determined by how quickly at least one of the two ongoing casino projects is finished. And that means their completion might just represent the final hurdle Nebraska sports betting needs to clear.

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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