For anyone waiting on sports betting in Nebraska to officially debut, we have some news: Get ready to hurry up and...keep waiting. How long? Nobody seems to know. But it does appear as if the Nebraska sports betting rollout will be on hold for the rest of 2023.
This will confuse anyone who is reading the situation from a 10,000-foot view. The Cornhusker State approved a legal sports betting bill years ago. Then, this past February, they officially legalized Nebraska sports betting, etching the details and parameters of the law into stone. And yet, despite all of these steps, you still cannot place sports bets inside the state.
A lack of infrastructure is at the center of this years-long delay. While Nebraska has legalized sports wagering, it doesn't have any systems set up to accept bets. Part of this is by design. Under Nebraska law, all sports betting must take place in person at licensed casinos or horse racing tracks. This means Nebraskans don't have the option to place wagers online. And though online betting still requires infrastructure, it is much easier to set up. States are able to strike licensing agreements with top online sportsbooks that already have their own processes in place. Rolling out mobile betting is more about reviewing applications and double-checking compliance issues than setting up a complicated gambling infrastructure.
Nebraska has instead opted for brick-and-mortar wagering only. The prevailing belief is that this will maximize in-state revenue. The jury is still out on whether that's accurate. Regardless, the state needs facilities capable of accepting bets to actualize their model. Right now, Nebraska doesn't have any in place.
And according to the latest updates, it'll be a while before this changes.
Nebraska Sports Betting Still Waiting on Casinos
As of now, only two casinos are fully operational in Nebraska: The WarHorse Casino in Lincoln and Elite Casino Resorts in Grand Island. Neither of them are currently equipped to accept sports bets. They are still trying to figure out vendor licenses for whoever will run their sports betting operations. Once they resolve this issue, the gaming commission must still approve the equipment they're using.
Indeed, there are other casinos and race tracks in the state. Technically. None of them have established a permanent base of operations. There are instead temporary gaming locations that won't be able to accept sports bets until they open their established residences.
Some officials inside the state are hoping these new casinos will open by the fall. As Rex Hoffmann explained recently for The Sports Geek:
"This is all expected to change when Lincoln’s WarHorse Casino has a finished product in September. The casino is slated to be the most robust and state-of-the-art gambling property in Nebraska when it opens. There are also plans for a WarHorse Casino in Omaha at Horsemen’s Park. The property in Omaha is scheduled to have a grand opening in 2024, with a temporary site expected this year. There is currently a temporary casino in Lincoln. But it does not offer sports betting, nor does it have table games. It’s essentially a slot room with 433 machines."
At present, it looks like Lincoln's WarHorse Casino will be the only one to open its doors before 2024. That should, in theory, allow them to accept sports bets before the 2023 calendar year is out. Unfortunately, though, it's not that simple.
Nebraska Still Trying to Hammer Out Some Final Sports Betting Details
Casino issues aren't the only roadblock still impeding Nebraska sports betting. The state themselves remain undecided on certain topics. The most prominent of these warts: Betting on college sports inside Nebraska.
Many lawmakers don't want amateur events to be included under the legal gambling umbrella. Others, meanwhile, argue that college sports will be among the state's biggest draws. The University of Nebraska's football program is by far and away the state's most popular team. Disallowing bets on the Cornhuskers could adversely impact the interest that residents have in betting on sports.
Nebraska isn't the only state that has run into this problem. Sports betting in Massachusetts went live at the beginning of this year, and after much haggling, they ultimately decided gamblers would not be allowed to wager on college teams that play inside the state. However, they do allow residents to bet on out-of-state college sports. Massachusetts also included a loophole that permits gamblers to wager on in-state teams during events that don't count toward the standings. This basically refers to postseason tilts—the March Madness Tournament, the college football playoffs, national championship games, etc.
Nebraska could adopt a college sports betting policy that is similar to Massachusetts' approach. But some officials don't view that as a tenable compromise. Massachusetts has a robust professional sports market. Nebraska is not home to any professional sports franchises. That inherently changes the calculus on any decision.
When Will Nebraskans be Allowed to Bet on Sports?
We wish we could answer this question. But we simply can't. The state of Nebraska continues to work inside a gray area, and they haven't provided any sort of timetable for what's next.
The prospect of a new casino opening in September 2023 serves as a nice flashpoint. But we'd be remiss if we thought Nebraska sports betting would actually be open for business at that time.
Could it? Absolutely. But given how much is still unsettled and unclear, we'd bet that Nebraska sports betting makes its debut sometime in 2024.
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: