When sports betting in Nebraska was first legalized all the way back in November 2020, everyone understood the implementation would take time. Nearly years later, however, Nebraska failed to provide a window for the legal sports betting rollout. And now, it appears as if it could be another few years before Nebraska legal sports betting makes its debut.
To be clear, state officials haven't come out and said anything concrete. Mum remains the word when it comes to discussions of legal sports betting. But that's sort of the point. The inaction on Nebraska's part speaks volumes, and it's starting to reach deafening levels.
Most recently, the Omaha World-Herald investigated just how much work had to be done before Nebraska legal sports betting could make an official debut. And almost needless to say, its findings paint a bleak picture for the immediate future.
Preparation for Nebraska Legal Sports Betting Has Yet to Get Off the Ground
Among the most troubling revelations dredged up by the Omaha World-Herald was the complete lack of discussion taking place behind the scenes in Nebraska. We're not just talking about a state that's slow-playing the construction of a sports betting infrastructure; we're talking about a state that has yet to even start thinking about how they'll construct it.
Consider this excerpt from the Omaha World-Herald's recent report:
"Nebraska policymakers haven’t begun debating regulations and rules about sports betting. As was the case with casinos, sports wagering faces its own separate process before the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, which is comprised of multiple steps...It took about five months for casino rules to be approved by the governor after the Racing and Gaming Commission voted on them in December, so if the process takes the same amount of time, that would mean sports betting rules could be in place by March or April of next year."
This might seem like an encouraging synopsis on the surface. Nebraska could have sports betting rules in place by March or April of 2023! How is that a bad thing? Especially knowing they've yet to even start cobbling together their rules, regulations and overarching processes? Surely the timeline hinted at above implies a burgeoning sense of urgency.
Or does it?
Sports Betting in Nebraska will Still be Put to a Vote
Hopeless romantics have likened the Nebraska legal sports betting situation to what's transpired in Kansas. It took the Sunflower State years to start getting their sports betting operations off the ground, and once they did, the rollout was able to come together in just a few months. Nebraska could theoretically follow a similar trajectory.
Except it actually can't.
Kansas had already put their rules and regulations for legal sports betting to a ballot vote when they decided to accelerate the process. Nebraska has yet to reach that stage, and because they didn't have a set of sports betting guidelines in place, there was no opportunity for pre-approval. They couldn't just put sports betting policies on a major ballot and then holster the issue for later.
Until Nebraska authors a definitive set of rules and regulations, they won't have a proposed sports betting rollout. And until they have a proposed sports betting rollout, they won't have anything to put on a voter's ballot.
This doesn't bode well for the immediate future. Even if Nebraska were to hash out their sports betting rules and regulations right this second, there isn't enough time to get those measures on the November 2022 ballot. As the Omaha World-Herald noted, the soonest they can hope to put sports betting protocols on a ballot is November 2024. And assuming that yet-to-be-authored measure passes, experts estimate the Nebraska State Lottery will need at least another year, if not more, to wrap up the licensing process with casinos.
How Long Until Nebraska Legal Sports Betting Realistically Goes Live?
Let's go ahead and assume Nebraska legal sports betting makes an appearance on the 2024 ballot. (Mind you, this is a generous presumption when, again, the state isn't even holding any meetings to discuss what sports betting will look like.) Let's also assume the to-be-determined measures on that 2024 ballot pass without issue. Assuming all of that, when can we expect Nebraska legal sports betting to debut? Sometime in 2026.
One of the provisions of Nebraska's legal sports betting bill that was signed into law two years ago is that the state wouldn't roll out the system for at least two years after the voters approved it.That means voter approval in late 2024 would put Nebraska on course for a legal sports betting rollout at the end of 2026 or the beginning to middle of 2027.
This is no doubt unwelcome news for sports betting enthusiasts. They have waited two years for a sports betting timeline, and it will likely be at least another four to five total years before it actually debuts. Luckily, Nebraskans are not without workarounds. Plenty of sites that appear in our reviews of the top online sportsbooks will allow residents from the Cornhusker State to set up an account, and Nebraskans always have the option of journeying across state lines to place wagers elsewhere.
Of course, we understand if outlining these alternatives rings hollow. They're easier to accept when there's a light at the end of tunnel. But if we're being brutally honest, there's no end to Nebraska's legal sports betting stalemate in sight. It's time to plan as if it won't happen anytime soon.
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