Nebraska Sports Legends Testify Against State Effort to Legalize Sports Betting, Casinos

Posted on: February 11, 2020, 10:04h. 

Last updated on: February 11, 2020, 10:53h.

Two Nebraska sports legends came out in opposition this week to legislation that seeks to expand gambling in the Cornhusker State.

Nebraska sports betting Tom Osborne
Nebraska sports legend Tom Osborne wants state lawmakers to punt on gambling. (Image: Emily Haney/Journal Star)

Former University of Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, who led the Cornhuskers to three national championships and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, says the state is better off without legalized commercial gambling.

Osborne represented Nebraska in Congress following his retirement from football. On Monday, he was in the Lincoln capital, where he expressed his opposition to gambling, including sports betting.

“Most of the really unpleasant interactions I had with fans were people who had lost a bet,” Osborne said. “I think this will change the nature of the stadium, the nature of athletics, and damage it to a significant degree.”

He added that the societal harm sports betting does far outweighs any potential tax benefit.

“That’s a dead argument when you say it will bring in tax dollars,” the coach continued. “There are all sorts of research that show the social costs created by gambling, and the speed of gambling will double and triple the social costs involved.”

The discussion surrounds bills that would put gaming issues before voters in November. The legislation seeks to allow the state’s horse racetracks to integrate casinos and authorize sports betting.

Legends Spew Urban Legends?

Osborne wasn’t the only Nebraska sports great in the capital. 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, who won the prestigious award recognizing college football’s player of the year while with the Cornhuskers, also voiced resistance to gambling.

I’m just a little concerned with some of the problems that might happen in our community as far as expanding the opportunities for people to risk their savings accounts, their mortgage payments, their children’s food money,” Rodgers opined.

“You sit there on the internet, you can bet on how many first downs you’re going to have, if a guy’s going to make a field goal or not, whether the batter’s going to strike out, if a kid’s going to make a free throw or not. And as a result, it changes the nature of the game.”

Proponents of the gaming bills say Nebraskans are betting in neighboring states, and participating in sports betting.

“Nebraskans are already doing this. There are three casinos right across the border in Council Bluffs,” said bill sponsor Sen. Justin Wayne (R-North Omaha). “And you don’t even have to go across the river anymore to bet. You can do so at the casino in Carter Lake.”

Iowa Benefits

Nebraska is home to five small tribal casinos that offer only Class I and II gaming – not slot machines and table games. But in adjacent Iowa, there are 19 commercial casinos and four Native American venues that offer slots, table games, and sports betting.

Land-based and mobile sports betting is off to a roaring success in the Hawkeye State. Since going live in August, Iowa oddsmakers have accepted more than $422.6 million in wagers.

“We are losing far too much revenue to the state of Iowa,” Wayne said. “We need to look at all revenue, such as sports betting, as revenue streams to solve some of our crisis around property tax.”