Gov. Ricketts Signs Nebraska Sports Betting into Law

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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts has signed into law a sports betting bill, months after opposing casino gambling expansion when it was placed on the ballot. LB 561- now a law following the governor’s signature on Wednesday- allows for casino gaming and sets up sports betting regulation process.

On May 20, the state lawmakers had sent the bill to Ricketts, who had until Wednesday to sign or veto the measure.

Now, Nebraska becomes the latest state to offer regulated retail sports betting. In Nov. 2020, state voters had approved casino gambling expansion- including sports betting.

Legislative Efficiency Made It Happen

Nebraska lawmakers approved gaming bills last week to bring limited sports betting in Cornhusker State. However, the legislative efficiency that ensured Nebraska sports betting launch as early as this year excluded two vital things: wagering on in-state college teams and online sports betting.

LB 561 sets regulatory frameworks as well as enforcement of the new industry at licensed racetracks. The United States’ only state with a unicameral legislature approved the bill by a 44-3 majority. A companion bill, LB 561A, was then passed 44-2.

Emergency clauses were attached to LB 561, allowing the application process to begin immediately and the regulatory authority to start regulations.

Under the law, existing racinos, tribal casinos, and horse racetracks can apply for retail licenses.

The Nebraska legislation session prorogues June 10.

Why Lawmakers Banned Mobile, in-State College Betting?

Nebraska limits sports betting to retail locations only and bans betting on Nebraska college teams. It means the residents will not be allowed to bet on the in-state college teams, the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Creighton Bluejays. To place legal bets on their favorite teams, Nebraskans will have to drive across the state to Iowa or Colorado.

 The last-minute amendment to ban betting on college teams keeps the room open for black marketing. But it was perhaps not the first care of the lawmakers to evaluate the economic effects that the lack of mobile option and in-state college betting ban would bring to the state.

“If people want to go to Iowa to (place bets on college teams), they can keep going to Iowa,” Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks said.

Sen. Steve Lathrop compared legislative compromise with making sausage, which may not always pretty. He said it was necessary to make some accommodations to “get something as consequential as LB 561 across the finishing line.” Lathrop said the stripping of mobile and the college prohibition is “not a big deal”.

Still, Something is Better Than Nothing

Though limited sports betting options will be available to Nebraskans, it is particularly thanks to the state lawmakers whose broader interpretation led to the passage of sports betting in Cornhusker State.

Nebraska voters approved “all games of chance” on the Nov. 2020 ballot, and it was only after the lawmakers included sports betting under that definition that they began working on its passage. In some states, sports betting is defined as a “game of skill”.

The lawmakers hope to see sports betting by the end of this year.

Sen. Tom Briese, who sponsored LB 561, said he introduced the bill to clarify what the voters approved, and provide some parameters that are in line with the voters’ demand and the state’s values.

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