Most expected Nebraska legal sports betting to be up and running a long time ago. How could they not? The state signed it into law all the way back in May 2021—more than a full year ago. And yet, despite taking that measure, legal sports betting in Nebraska has yet to be installed in any form.
It turns out this yearlong delay may only be the tip of iceberg to boot. Experts are no longer optimistic Nebraska will roll out legal sports betting before the end of 2022. In fact, there is neither a concrete nor tentative date for Nebraska to join the ranks of legal sports betting in the USA.
Prospective gamblers are no doubt unhappy with the current state of affairs. So, too, are the online sporsbooks who were hoping to crack Nebraska's robust college football betting odds market. The racinos within the state that were expected to have the green light accept wagers by now aren't thrilled, either. It's a real cluster-you-know-what.
Optimists continue to point out everything should be fine. After all, sports betting has been signed into law. That is supposed to be the most difficult part of the process. But is there a chance Nebraska's present situation worsens? And why are they taking so long to deploy legal sports betting in the first place?
Licensing Process Causing Delays for Nebraska Legal Sports Betting
Nebraska initially hoped to have legal sports betting available to their residents by the end of 2021. That forecast soon moved to sometime in to 2022. It then shifted again, this time to the end of 2022. Currently, there is no proposed timetable.
The licensing process appears to be at the heart of the issue. Nebraska's racinos are supposed to be assigned sports betting licenses so they can accept wagers, but they must each be approved individually. That not only takes extra time, but because the state didn't have sports betting regulations in the first place, they've had to build out that entire process from scratch. They have needed to author sports betting and casino operation rules, and those then need to be signed off on by the governor's office before they can officially implement them.
To make matters worse, until Nebraska wraps up the approval procedures for their racinos, they won't begin accepting applications for online sports betting licenses from bigger operators like DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, BetMGM, etc. So ever after all the racinos receive their required licenses, sports betting in Nebraska could still be a ways off.
Nebraska Racinos Not Yet Equipped to Meet the Demand for Sports Betting
As if the red tape outlined above isn't complicated enough, Nebraska's racinos still haven't actually positioned themselves to set up brick-and-mortar sports betting operations. Many places throughout the region are behind on plans to construct casinos and hotels that have brand new sportsbooks. The Lincoln Race Course, for example, is set to build a massive resort-style property, but it will take nearly two more years to complete. The hope had been that all of these projects would be wrapped up sooner—and already—but the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the construction industry throughout the United States, creating an unprecedented backlog of delays.
This wouldn't be as big of an issue if the racinos were already set up with sportsbooks. But they're not. Sports betting was previously illegal in Nebraska, per the state's constitution. That ensured these racinos were built without sportsbook setups already included.
Some racinos, like the Lincoln Race Course, have shown a willingness to cobble together makeshift sportsbooks and casino floors to speed up the process. But not every racino has the bandwidth to do the same, and even those temporary floors take time to finish.
When will Nebraska Legal Sports Betting Finally be Ready?
If Nebraska residents were hoping for clarity from anyone in an official capacity, they're not getting it from anybody in the state's Racing and Gaming Commission. As Tom Sage, an executive director for Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, recently told the Journal Star:
“To me, sports wagering in the state may be a ways off. I understand people’s frustration. They think, ‘It was on the ballot, approved by the people. Why isn’t it happening now?’ It’s a long, detailed process with sports wagering. We’re starting from scratch.”
This sentiment prevents us from having an exact hold on what comes next in Nebraska. That said, we do know they're intent on having legal sports betting in time for a college football season. And with the 2022 schedule already out of the question, it stands to reason they'll attempt to have the rollout complete by next summer, in advance of the 2023 NCAA football season. Granted, this cannot be seen as a guarantee. And we should have ample notice if this becomes the timeline. In the event Nebraska doesn't offer any clarification on where they're at by the start of 2023—in, say, January—then it's fair to start bracing for the state to remain without legal sports betting until 2024.
In the meantime, Nebraska residents can peruse our reviews of the top online sportsbooks, many of which will allow them to set up accounts and place wagers. That's the best, most effective solution given how long this delay continues to last.
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