Nebraska lawmakers agree to allow new casino development
March 30, 2022
On Tuesday, lawmakers passed the first of three essential votes to advance a plan that would ease Nebraska's entry into new casino development while attempting to avoid a spike in new facilities.
Under the plan, casinos would be authorized in six Nebraska counties that hold horseracing tracks.
Further casinos' establishment in other parts of the state requires a more comprehensive investigation of the state's potential impact through the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission.
The commission has the authority to approve or decline gaming and racing licenses around the state under their thorough analysis.
According to Sen. Tom Briese, chairman of the General Affairs Committee, the legislation aims to strike a compromise between developers and communities that want to create casinos and gambling opponents who are concerned about the state becoming overrun with casinos.
Previously proposed legislation would have set specified limits on the number of casinos and their distance.
Under a plan passed to the entire Legislature for debate this early March, Nebraska gambling fans would have to make do with only six casinos at existing horse racing facilities.
After weeks of haggling over various issues, including how many casinos to allow given voter acceptance of increased gambling in November, the Legislature's General Affairs Committee adopted Legislative Bill 876 on a 7-0 vote, with one member not voting.
"Should new casinos be prohibited from being built within 50 miles or 150 miles of an existing racetrack, and should a ban on new "racinos" (racetracks and casinos) be imposed?" and "Should a number of additional casinos permitted?" are among the issues raised.
Nebraska's gaming bill history
Legislators have been blocking casino expansions for decades, including voter-initiated ballot measures to change the state constitution.
A petition to place casino gambling at state horse races on the ballot in 2020 received enough signatures to be placed on the ballot, and Nebraska voters decisively approved the referendum last year.
Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the state's first-ever commercial casino gaming bill into law in May 2021, making sports betting legal.
The next step was for elected authorities to enact a regulation measure. Despite the fact that the vote did not expressly authorize or prohibit sportsbooks, lawmakers chose to include retail sports betting in the Act while excluding statewide mobile sportsbooks, real money poker sites, and online casino games.
One of the bill's most contentious choices was the prohibition on collegiate betting. The bill's sponsors opted to approve the amendment after first opposing the in-state wagering limitations in order to ensure approval of the more comprehensive legislative package.
The gaming bill in Nebraska only allows retail sportsbooks at pari-mutuel racetracks, which can also provide "Las Vegas-style" casino gambling.
The gaming bill in Nebraska only allows retail sportsbooks at pari-mutuel race facilities, which can also provide "Las Vegas-style" casino gambling.
Betting on collegiate games involving in-state teams that are played in the state is prohibited under the bill. This means that gamblers will be unable to wager on Nebraska Cornhuskers football games at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln or Creighton Blue Jays games in Omaha.
State gaming facilities are expected to cooperate with third-party operators for their brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. All sportsbooks will be subject to increased regulatory monitoring under a new gaming commission established by the bill.