Nebraska Sports Betting Bill Passes, But Cornhusker Football Excluded

Posted on: May 21, 2021, 07:06h. 

Last updated on: May 21, 2021, 10:35h.

Nebraska lawmakers yesterday signed off on legislation that authorizes sports betting. But odds involving state universities and colleges will not be allowed. 

Nebraska sports betting Cornhuskers
The Nebraska Cornhuskers celebrate in 2019 after scoring a touchdown. Sports betting is coming to Nebraska, but there won’t be odds on the Cornhuskers. (Image: Omaha World-Herald)

Legislative Bill 561 passed the unicameral Nebraska Legislature 44-3-2. A companion appropriations bill did, too, by a similar tally. 

Voters last fall approved a ballot referendum to allow casino gambling at horse racetracks. The constitutional amendment legalized “all games of chance,” leading to lawmakers in Lincoln crafting legislation to include sports betting. 

LB 561 heads to Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts’ (R) desk for review. The governor has until June 2 to sign or veto the measure. Ricketts opposed the gambling referendum, summarizing casinos as “a losing bet.”

“Over the years, Nebraska has decided against allowing casino gambling in the Good Life — and for good reason. By keeping Nebraska casino-free, our state has minimized the social harms associated with problem gambling,” Ricketts wrote last August.

“In fact, research shows that Nebraska ranks as the fourth-least gambling-addicted state in America,” the governor continued. Despite his opposition to gaming, the Republican isn’t expected to go against the will of the people, in which 64.9 percent of Nebraskans backed the gaming initiatives during the 2020 election.

Cornhuskers Prohibited

There is perhaps no state more obsessed with college football than Nebraskans and their beloved Cornhuskers Big 10 program. Monday workdays across the state are often a little less perky following a Saturday loss. 

According to a study published in The New York Times in 2014, Nebraska ranked No. 2 behind only Alabama in “The Places in America Where College Football Means the Most.” 

If Ricketts allows LB 561 to become law, sports betting will officially be legal. But the bill simply sets the framework for the State Racing and Gaming Commission to compose regulations that will govern all aspects of sports betting. That includes the application process and issuance of licenses, permit costs, and determining tax rates on associated sports betting revenue.

However, one regulatory condition was mandated in LB 561, and it’s a big stipulation: Cornhusker football, and any sport involving a state-based university, is prohibited.

“Authorized sports event does not include an instate collegiate sporting event in which an in-state collegiate or university team is a participant,” LB 561 orders. 

Fiery Debate

Not everyone in Lincoln was on board with excluding Nebraska collegiate athletics from the odds. 

I don’t like this provision. You can drive to Iowa and place a bet and then go watch the game,” said Sen. Adam Morfeld (D-Lincoln). “It’s illogical.”

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks (D-Lincoln) disagreed. “If people want to go to Iowa to do that, they can,” she rebutted. 

Twelve states with legal sports betting do not allow wagering on in-state college teams. They are Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Washington, DC additionally prevents oddsmakers from accepting bets on colleges based in the nation’s capital.