Nebraska is well-known for its love of horse racing, but many other forms of betting in the state are still off-limits. Options for gamblers are looking bright in 2022, however, as the Cornhusker State has legalized games of chance within licensed horse tracks. This could signal a shifting of the winds, with potential ramifications for other parts of Nebraska’s gambling sector.
The New Change
These new developments for Nebraska have come courtesy of LB 561, passed in May of 2021. Sponsored by Senator Tom Briese, this bill provides “regulation and enforcement regarding sports wagering and other gambling activities at licensed racetrack enclosures”. In simple terms, this bill allows racing establishments to open up games of chance.
According to the Journal-Star, all of Nebraska’s six racetracks will take advantage of this development, and implement games of chance. Requiring such a major overhaul, this couldn’t occur in 2021, with the necessary licenses and floor expansions pushing the arrival of gambling tables and machines into late 2022.
Indications of a Greater Change?
At this point in 2022, Nebraska has a complicated relationship with the different forms of gambling. Among the fully accepted and legal forms are tribal gaming establishments, horse racing, lotteries, social gambling, charitable gambling, and now, racinos. Not yet legal are full non-tribal casino gambling establishments, poker, or dog racing. The legal ages of gamblers in this state sit at 18 for bingo, 19 for the lottery, and 21 for tribal casinos and racinos.
More nebulous is the state’s attitude towards online gambling. Though not mentioned specifically in the state’s constitution, this type of gambling isn’t noted as an exception either. Inheriting some traditional attitudes towards gambling, this could soon change as racecourse casinos did.
Bringing in around $50 million in gambling taxes each year, Nebraska’s government has undoubtedly looked at this gain when regarding the future of the state. With more than $1.8 billion in debt, better funding through gambling tax could serve as one part of a solution.
Online casinos are a key part of this equation that has been gaining nationwide steam over the last few years. It might have been more than a decade after states like New Jersey opted into the online casino market, but the decision seems more natural now than at any point in the past.
The same could be said of the potential for the development of more tribal casinos. As states like Pennsylvania land record revenues, greater investment along these lines could also prove a boon. The only question is if Nebraska, with around a fifth of the population of Pennsylvania, is already close to maximum penetration.
Ultimately, the answer to whether or not gambling continues to expand with Nebraska could depend on the performance of the new racing casinos. Should they perform well, legislators will likely be much more willing to explore further options. If not, there’s no telling when or if the likes of online gambling could arrive in the state.