Nebraska sports betting took a big leap forward this week, as the state’s lawmakers approved a potential bill that would legalize in-person sports betting at the state’s six-licensed horse racing tracks.

LB561 will be decided by a final yes or no vote before the state’s legislative session concludes in late June. If approved, the state’s horse racing tracks will be permitted to open retail sportsbooks and take sports bets. The final bill did not include online sports betting for the state and will only allow in-person sports betting inside brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at the state’s horse racing tracks.

In-state prohibition on college sports betting denied

An amendment to the bill that prohibits bets on home games for in-state colleges proposed by Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks (D-28) was not approved by state lawmakers. Brooks’ amendment would have prohibited wagers on home games for in-state college teams. However, state gamblers would have been able to place bets on the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team if they were playing an away game outside of the state.

The amendment failed with a vote of 18-13, with 16 members choosing not to cast to a vote.

Additionally, lawmakers voted down an amendment included in the bill that would have legalized online Keno in the state.

A date for the final vote on LB561 has yet to be set.

History of Nebraska sports betting

Nebraska voters approved three initiatives in the November 2020 general election to allow for a gaming expansion for the state’s six-licensed horse racetracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Columbus and South Sioux City. Votes approved a change to the state constitution that allowed for slot machines and table gaming, as well as two initiatives to regulate casino gaming and tax casino gambling.

The approved initiatives did not include language for sports betting, but lawmakers have since determined they can encompass potential retail sportsbooks in the state. While this news serves as a step in the right direction for those hoping to one day use their mobile devices or computers to place online sports bets, it appears the ability to do so remains a long way off, at least for the time being.