Sports betting is now legal in Nebraska, Racing and Gaming Executive Director Tom Sage confirmed on Wednesday, after the Secretary of State’s Office published recently approved rules. However, regulators pointed out there isn’t any infrastructure yet at the state’s licensed casinos to start taking any bets.
While regulation has been approved, it is expected to be a few months before bettors can start placing any bets. Under Nebraska law, sports betting must take place in person in licensed casinos at the state’s horse racing tracks. Only two are currently operating: WarHorse Casino in Lincoln and Elite Casino Resorts in Grand Island.
According to Sage, those operations have yet to fulfill some established requirements before being able to accept wagers. For example, they must apply for and be granted a vendor license for whoever is going to run their sports betting operations.
The commission also will have to inspect and approve whatever equipment they use. Therefore, while legalized, there won’t be any Super Bowl wagers changing hands next week, and it’s questionable whether gamblers will be able to bet on this year’s March Madness.
Lynne McNally, CEO of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, confirmed that it “should be a few weeks” before sports betting is available at the Lincoln casino, as reported by Lincoln Journal Star.
McNally said Lance Morgan, president, and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., a partner with the Horsemen’s group on the Lincoln casino and one under construction in Omaha, is currently interviewing potential sports betting providers and should make a decision soon.
According to McNally, once that happens, the provider must seek a license from the commission and be vetted. But once the commission signs off, things should move “pretty quickly.”
Meanwhile, at the Grand Island Casino, it could take a while before sports betting becomes available. As reported by the above-mentioned media, Vincent Fiala, the Grand Island Casino Resort general manager, said it would likely be months before sports betting is up and running there. “Honestly, at best, it’s probably going to be next fall,” Fiala said.
WarHorse Casino in Lincoln Fiala explained that Elite Casino Resorts, the company operating the casino at Fonner Park and other states, has its own sportsbook but also uses third-party operators. He’s not sure yet what the plan is in Grand Island since the casino also has to figure out how to fit sports betting equipment, such as kiosks, into its existing temporary casino space inside the concourse at Fonner Park.
The process to approve sports betting took about three months, about two months less than it took to complete the final steps to approve casino licenses. That was due in large part to new Gov. Jim Pillen signing off quickly on sports gaming rules.
The Racing and Gaming Commission approved the proposed sports betting regulations on October 21, and the Attorney General’s Office signed off on them on January 10. Pillen’s approval came on January 27. By contrast, former Gov. Pete Ricketts took nearly two months to sign off on casino rules after the Attorney General’s Office reviewed them.
The casino gambling initiatives approved by voters in 2020 dictate that 70% of tax revenues from gambling go to a state property tax relief fund.
In just over three months of operation last year, WarHorse Lincoln generated nearly $1.9 million for the property tax relief fund. The Grand Island casino sent $68,000 to state coffers in just five days of operation. Overall, the two casinos offering only slot machines in temporary facilities generated more than $2.8 million in tax revenue in 2022.
Construction is underway on the permanent casino resort in Lincoln, and work on the one in Grand Island will begin later this year. When complete both will include sportsbooks, table games, and slot machines.
On Tuesday, Massachusetts became the 33rd state to launch sports betting. In states bordering Nebraska, only Missouri has not legalized sports wagers.