It has now been two years since sports betting in Nebraska was officially signed into law. Yet, in that time, legal Nebraska sports betting has yet to actually debut. And the "why" of it all isn't quite clear.
Even more confusing, Nebraska still doesn't have an expected rollout date. A vast many timelines are being bandied about entering 2023. It isn't totally clear whether any of them are accurate. Some have stipulated legal Nebraska sports betting could be up and running sometime in early 2023. Other experts think it could be late 2023. Others, meanwhile, have posited that the Cornhusker State is further away from opening the sports betting doors than anybody thinks.
Based on the latest news, it sure seems like the latter camp will be the most accurate.
Legal Nebraska Sports Betting Doesn't Have a Timeline
Despite a general lack of clarity surrounding this process, many thought Nebraska took a big step toward legal sports betting when they opened the first non-tribal casino back in September. This was seen as a vessel for sports gambling. Commercial casinos are typically staples only in states that also offer sports betting. Surely this step had to mark the end of an ultra-long process.
Fast forward more than two months, to the end of November, and nothing's changed. Nebraska still doesn't have sports betting. Worse, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission continues to remain non-committal on their timeline.
The hope had been the end of Election Season would create both urgency and clarity on the matter. It has done neither. According to ABC 6 News in Nebraska, "the Racing and Gaming Commission said there isn’t a set timeline for when sports betting could be available in the state but it’s nearing the end of a lengthy process. The final draft of rules and regulations, which includes sports betting, was approved by the commission on October 21 and now, it’s onto the next step."
This next step includes sending the protocols to the Attorney General. From there, assuming everything is in tip-top shape, the bill will go to the governor's office. After getting the approval from both the Attorney General and Governor, they will then be shipped over to the Secretary of State. Then finally, five days later, sportsbooks should be allowed to open in Nebraska if they have met all of the imposed regulations.
Why is Nebraska Sports Betting Taking So Long?
The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission hasn't exactly explained what's behind the delay. Officials associated with the project have generally defaulted to the newness of this process. This entire undertaking is foreign to the state; they have never gone through it before. Also: They have needed to work within very specific confines.
One of those confines: figuring out how to bet on sports in Nebraska.
As it stands, only brick-and-mortar gambling will be legal in the Cornhusker State. Though legal online sports betting was discussed as part of this bill, officials are concerned that welcoming off-site sportsbooks such as FanDuel and DraftKings will funnel too much of the betting revenue outside the state. As a result, mobile sports betting will remain illegal in Nebraska. Residents can only place their wagers at a specially designated location, which will most likely be a casino.
This seems to be another driving force behind the delay, though. Nebraska is trying to ensure they make sports betting as accessible as possible to everyone. This is difficult when you consider that not every resident lives within driving distance of a casino. For some, it would actually make more sense to leave the state and bet on sports in a neighboring region.
Nebraska has attempted to address this by approving additional casinos and racetracks for legal sports betting. That process has taken quite a while. The list of places that will offer legal sports betting throughout Nebraska isn't even finalized yet. And until it is, we can safely assume that the rollout is at least a few months away.
How to Bet on Sports in Nebraska Online
Just because Nebraska hasn't legalized online sports betting doesn't mean you can't participate in it. Most of the sites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks will allow Nebraskans to set up an account, make a deposit and begin wagering almost immediately without an issue.
Going the off-shore route should appeal to anyone within the state who's not within close proximity of a casino or racetrack. Heck, it's just flat-out more convenient even if you do live by a casino. More than 80 percent of all legal sports bets in the United States are estimated to be submitted online. People prefer the ease of access attached to using their phone or computer rather than having to commute just to place bets and collect winnings.
This is ultimately why we expect Nebraska to cave and eventually green light online sports betting. Of course, they first need to get on-site sports betting operational. And it will be at least a year or two from there before they consider wholesale changes to their current batch of gaming compacts.
Still, allowing bets to placed on sports at all is the first and most important hurdle to clear. Even if they haven't provided a concrete timeline, Nebraska appeals well on their way to at least doing that. However, if we get into the middle of 2023 and they still haven't released their timeline, then it'll be time to start asking some mega-uncomfortable questions.
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