Nebraska Sports Betting will Welcome New Casino to the Fold in 2024

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 24, 2023 08:00 PM
Nebraska Sports Betting will Welcome New Casino to the Fold in 2024

At long last, we finally have some good news on the rollout of sports betting in Nebraska. Kind of.

Though Nebraska sports betting still doesn't have an official launch date, we can at least be sure they plan to be up and running by the summer of 2024. Once more, this isn't something the state has mapped out in layman's terms. But we're able to read between the lines.

WarHorse Gaming just announced plans to finish building a new casino in Omaha. The sprawling facility is expected to offer a vast array of gaming options—including the ability to bet on sports. As of now, it is expected to open by June or July 2024, which is a little over one year from this writing.

That's not quite soon. But it's not forever away, either. More than anything, it's at least a ballpark. And until this point, Nebraska sports betting hasn't even been able to offer that modicum of reassurance. Mind you, this is despite the state agreeing to legalize sports gambling all the way back in May 2021. We're now more than two years into the process, and Nebraska only just approved all the necessary licensing and operational regulations.

Of course, for now, those regulations serve little purpose. Sports betting in Nebraska may be legal, but residents still can't utilize it. So, yeah, the news that there will be a new casino opening within the next year that offers sports gambling is important. Now, is this news also accurate? As in, will WarHorse Gaming's Omaha casino actually open within the next 12 or 13 years? Or will The Cornhusker State subject Nebraskans to even more delays?

Always be Skeptical of the Any Nebraska Sports Betting Timeline

This comes across as callous advice. That doesn't make it wrong. Experience has taught us not to trust any optimism that trickles into the Nebraska sports betting timeline discourse. If we could, gambling operations across the state would already be up and running. But they're not. That suggests we should be skeptical of the timeline to complete WarHorse Gaming's Omaha casino.

If we're being honest, there are already some self-admitted red flags entering the equation. For starters, WarHorse Gaming has yet to break ground on the latest casino. And they're not expected to do so until June. Can we really expect them to finish building a massive casino and have everything ready in time to open the doors 12 months from now?

It seems like company officials are thinking along the same lines. They're already painting the initial Omaha casino launch as a soft opening. Consider the following from ABC 7 in Omaha:

"Nebraska Horsemen is partnering with Ho-Chunk Inc. to launch the WarHorse casinos in Lincoln and Omaha. Lincoln's WarHorse casino opened a temporary facility with 433 slot machines in September 2022. McNally said Omaha's first opening next summer will be a supercharged version of Lincoln's, with more than double the number of gaming positions. The final facility is expected to open about four months later, by the end of 2024."

This "by the end of 2024" phrasing has some ominous undertones to it. Though July technically qualifies as the back half of the year, this word choice typically refers to November or December. Plus, it's not just the verbiage used by ABC 7 in Omaha. It's the verbiage not employed by WarHorse Gaming. Most of the time, if you're planning to have legal wagering available by the fall, you'd see headlines like "Nebraska Sports Betting to be Live by the Start of the 2023 NFL Season." It's notable that the Omaha casino's opening isn't being spun in those terms.

Why Has the Rollout of Sports Gambling in Nebraska Taken So Long?

This is a question everyone within the state and sports betting industry at large has been asking for more than a year. Lynne McNally, the CEO of Nebraska Horsemen, offered an answer while discussing the Omaha casino plans (via ABC 7):

"As for the wait , McNally said it's been a series of frustrating events that are nobody's fault. She cited the time it took to get rules and regulations in place and the state of the economy just as they were about to tackle a $500 million project. 'Unfortunately, we started the process at about the same time the economy tanked and interest rates went through the roof,' she said. 'That has been difficult to navigate, but we've done that effectively and that's done.'"

McNally also went on to cite the complicated process of building a new casino. It isn't just about obtaining materials and getting the structure up. Nebraska also has to deal with building roads and parking lots and garages and all the necessary permits that go along with those tasks. The entire process, as she notes, is very time-consuming.

What's the Latest Timeline for Nebraska Sports Betting

Even so, McNally projects that sports betting will go live inside Nebraska state lines within the next "13 to 14 months."

That means this year, specifically, is out of the question. But we already knew the rollout of Nebraska sports betting wasn't happening in 2023. Two casinos are now unfinished projects, and the state hasn't issued licenses to any operators conducting business out of temporary locations.

As a result, there is pressure on Nebraska to get their sports betting launch right the first time around. Not only is there an intense build up, but the state has married itself to in-person gambling.

Sure, Nebraskans can still bet with the best online sportsbooks located offshore. But the state opted not to license online sportsbooks as part of legal gambling. They believe Nebraska stands to keep more money in-house by offering on-site gambling only, since online sportsbooks typically operate entirely outside the state.

Whether Nebraska officials are correct remains to be seen. We'll find out in due time—just not in 2023...or even in 2024, either.

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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