Sportsbook Leaders Fold on Nebraska Online Sports Betting Campaign

Posted on: April 3, 2024, 08:42h. 

Last updated on: April 3, 2024, 09:41h.

The four largest sportsbooks in the United States have suspended their fight to bring online sports gambling to Nebraska.

Nebraska online sports betting
Herbie Husker, the mascot of the University of Nebraska. Online sports betting will remain on the sidelines in Nebraska after four leading sportsbook operators folded on their campaign to bring legal wagers to the internet. (Image: Getty)

DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars Sportsbook, along with the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, earlier this year commissioned a poll to gauge Cornhusker State residents’ support for expanding sports betting to the internet. The survey concluded that roughly 57% of Nebraskans backed online sports betting.

The slight majority outcome wasn’t robust enough to convince the four sportsbook giants to carry on the legislative undertaking. With state lawmakers in Lincoln refusing to pass legislation to allow sports bets to be made over the internet from inside the state’s borders, the sportsbooks would have to embark on a ballot initiative to get the issue before voters this November.

Collecting the required 122K signatures from residents and launching a marketing campaign to win over the public against antigambling forces would have cost as much as $7 million, the sportsbooks and tribe said. With less than six in 10 residents saying they’d support the sports betting question, the risk outweighed the possible business benefits in the state that’s home to fewer than two million people.

As a result, Nebraska sports betting will remain limited to retail betting at the state’s horse racetracks where permanent casinos are being built.

2026 Next Chance

Unless the GOP-controlled Legislature reverses course and gets on board with online sports betting, Nebraskans will have to wait until at least 2026 to make their voices heard on the gaming matter. The development is a major win for Iowa online sportsbooks, as many Nebraskan sports bettors in the state’s two most populated cities, Omaha and Lincoln, regularly travel across the Missouri River to place their wagers.

Lance Morgan, the CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe, blamed the poll’s slim outcome in online sports betting’s favor for the initiative being folded on for 2024.

If you’re at 57%, it creates some possibility that you could lose unless you really were to put substantial resources into it. It doesn’t make sense to go to war unless you have a war chest lined up,” Morgan told the Lincoln Journal Star.

Morgan said the tribe was unwilling to bankroll the campaign after the four sportsbooks abandoned ship. Ho-Chunk is currently spending $400 million to build permanent casinos in Lincoln and Omaha.

Morgan said the sportsbooks folding on the online sports betting initiative “is one of the problems of being a small population state.”

Legislative Solution

Nebraska lawmakers possess the power to legalize online sports gambling through legislative action.

Nebraska voters amended the state constitution in 2020 to allow commercial casinos at licensed horse racetracks with slot machines, table games, and sports betting. The ballot referendum passed easily with 65% support. The referendum authorized the formation of the Nebraska Gaming Commission.

Morgan hopes state lawmakers will come to their senses and decide that adding online sports betting will only grow the state’s gaming tax benefit and allow consumers to participate in a regulated environment more easily.

Hopefully, we can get it passed in the unicameral in the next year years as [sports betting] becomes more politically acceptable,” Morgan said.

Four of Nebraska’s six neighboring states have legal online sports betting. Along with Iowa, bettors in Wyoming, Colorado, and Kansas can place wagers online. South Dakota only has retail sports betting in Deadwood.