Sportsbook CEO Believes Nebraska Online Sports Betting will be Legalized in 2026

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 7, 2024 08:00 PM
Sportsbook CEO Believes Nebraska Online Sports Betting will be Legalized in 2026

Despite recent efforts to expedite the process, there will be no Nebraska online sports betting in 2024. However, one industry employee believes the Cornhusker State will change their tune by 2026.

Lance Morgan is the CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc, the parent company of WarHorse Gaming in Nebraska, has been pretty open about the future of online wagering in the state. On more than one occasion, he has said something to the effect that the Cornhusker State is late to the party. And, well, that’s true. Among the 38 states that have legalized some form of sports betting, more than half offer online gaming options. When sports betting in Nebraska went live, though, it only covered on-site options.

For Morgan’s part, he believes this is on track to shift in the coming years. In a recent conversation with the Lincoln Journal Star’s Andrew Wegley, he even went as far as to outline a potential timeline.

“Our plan is very straightforward,” Morgan said. “Hopefully, we can get [Nebraska online sports betting] passed in the unicameral in the next two years as it becomes more, sort of, politically acceptable.”

Is 2026 a realistic timeline for online sports betting in Nebraska to get the stamp of approval? And why did a 2024 push for online gaming fall flat? Let’s get into it.

Latest Nebraska Online Sports Betting Attempt Falls Short

As we recently covered, sportsbooks such as FanDuel and DraftKings declined to bankroll a Nebraska online sports betting measure in advance of 2024 elections. While this news is not overly surprising, many were left trying to figure out the real why behind their decisions. And as Morgan explained to Wegley, he believes that is a confluence of factors—most notably population size and timing:

“The national companies are instead focusing on similar efforts in more populous states this year, Morgan said, while Ho-Chunk, which is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the development of casinos in Lincoln and Omaha, wasn’t willing to foot the bill alone. ‘I think we’re just on their list of these big companies, I suspect,’ Morgan said, suggesting Nebraska was too ‘late to the party’ for the companies to fund the campaign this election cycle. ‘This is one of the problems, I think, of being a small-population state. It’s unfortunate, I think.’”

Morgan has a strong point across both fronts. Nebraska is 37th out 50 in total population, according to StatsAmerica.org. The top online sportsbooks in the United States stand to make more money by focusing their resources on larger markets, such as Minnesota, California, Texas and Georgia.

Still, the timing behind the push may be a larger deterrent than population size. Initially, top online sportsbooks in the USA helped back a poll to find out how many residents were interested in Nebraska online sports betting. By the time results came back, it was basically spring. The deadline, meanwhile, to get a sports gambling measure on the ballot is July. That doesn’t leave much time to solicit the required number of signatures.

Is 2026 a Realistic Timeline for Online Sports Betting to Arrive in Nebraska?

Indeed, FanDuel and DraftKings may have footed the bill amid an urgent timeline in a bigger market. But they also may have footed the bill in Nebraska if the window to do so wasn’t so narrow. Hence why a 2026 timeline makes so much sense.

Wondering why it’s a two-year timeline? You’re not alone. Any push to legalize online sports betting in Nebraska will almost assuredly require a constitutional amendment. That, in turn, means the measure must appear on a general election ballot. Since 2024 is now out of the question, the 2026 elections are next up on the docket. 

It’ll naturally be interesting to see whether Nebraska puts together an online sports betting bill for voters to decide on by then. Interest among policymakers does not seem exceptionally high at the moment. This is in part because Nebraska legalized sports betting without much of an infrastructure. Remember, it took them years to launch after giving it the initial green light. Even today, certain sports betting locations are essentially makeshift operations. The state, it seems, would prefer to wait until their brick and mortar market is more extensively developed. 

The One Factor That Could Ensure Online Sports Gambling Comes to the Cornhusker States

If waiting on the casino market to expand is indeed why lawmakers aren’t keen on pushing for Nebraska online sports betting, their mindset may not change in the next two years. Sure, that seems like a ton of time. But when measured against casino construction and regulatory procedures, it’s not much of a window at all.

And yet, it has to matter that Ho-Chunk Inc appears to be on board with the legalization of online sports betting in Nebraska. Typically, tribal gaming operators prefer on-site exclusivity. At the very least, they aren’t campaigning for the arrival of corporate sportsbooks. Taking that stance ensures they don’t face additional competition for sports betting revenue. 

This apparently isn’t a line of thinking to which Ho Chunk Inc. subscribes. Morgan told the Lincoln Journal Star in more ways than one that the company supports it. “But I feel bad because this is something everybody wants,” he told Wegley. “And if we do it in 2026, we will be four years behind Iowa, and that’s unfortunate.”

Granted, this support from Ho Chunk Inc. does nothing to change things in 2024. But it should bode well for Nebraska online sports betting efforts in the future

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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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