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Sports betting likely coming to Nebraska, with restrictions

Posted at 7:19 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 20:19:42-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraskans will soon be able to gamble at state race tracks, and it appears they will also be able to wager on sports, with one major caveat.

After the voters legalized gambling at race tracks last fall, it was on the legislature to make the rules, and they needed 33 votes, two-thirds of the body, to do so.

Making sure they pass something was essential for many state senators.

“We want to get it right and we want to get the votes to make sure it’s passed,” said Mike Hilgers, Speaker of the Legislature.

They got the votes Wednesday in a unique compromise.

Those safeguards include not being able to use a phone app at a race track casino and, most notably, gamblers will not be able to wager on the Huskers or Creighton Bluejays when the teams are playing in the state of Nebraska — just when they’re on the road and outside of the state.

Many didn’t like the idea. State Senator Adam Morfeld called it “puritanical nonsense.”

Senator Tom Briese says it only hurts the state.

“It encourages Nebraskans to place illegal bets, online or with those bookies, sends more tax dollars to Iowa. Enhances the profit of the Iowa casinos,” said Briese.

But it did please senators who are hesitant about allowing gambling.

Senator Patty Pansing Brooks said it protects the players from getting booed when they choose to not run up the score.

Senator Mike Groene thinks he’ll see fewer gambling advertisements because of the restrictions they put in.

“And I don’t want to bet on it and I don’t want it reminded all the time that somebody else is betting on it,’ said Groene.

Senator Steve Lathrop, who spearheaded the compromise, which also included leveling the playing field for keno operators, says the restrictions aren’t perfect, but important the bill gets passed.

“Do I think it’s a compelling thing to do? No, I don’t. But we’re making sausage here and that’s about counting votes,” said Lathrop.

The Unicameral still needs to pass the bill on final reading before it goes to Governor Ricketts' desk. It’s unclear if Ricketts will veto the bill.

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