Posted on: February 8, 2024, 10:48h.
Last updated on: February 8, 2024, 10:54h.
Several leading sportsbook operators are behind a public opinion poll asking Nebraskans about online sports betting.
The Lincoln Journal Star this week reported that FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Caesars Sportsbook — all typically rivals — have teamed up in Nebraska to get online sports betting across the finish line. The four sportsbook firms are also partnered with Ho-Chunk, Inc., the economic development corporation of the Winnebago Tribe.
The handful of entities are bankrolling a poll asking voters whether they would support adding online betting options to the state’s sports betting law. Nebraskans passed referendums in 2020 that amended the state constitution to allow casinos at horse racetracks featuring slot machines, table games, and sports betting.
The 2020 referendums, however, only legalized in-person sports betting. Five casino projects are amid construction, with three operating temporary casinos and a fourth running a temporary sportsbook.
The four sportsbook companies and Ho-Chunk think Nebraskans want online sports betting options instead of being forced to visit a physical casino.
Sports betting has become legal, and if you’re going to do it, people really … don’t want to drive if they can help it,” Lance Morgan, the CEO of Ho-Chunk told the Lincoln Journal Star. “They’d much rather do it from their phone.”
For sportsbooks to move online, the Nebraska Constitution must again be amended to allow such internet gambling. Lawmakers in Lincoln can pass legislation to initiate a statewide ballot referendum that could take place this November.
A more difficult path is a citizen-initiated referendum. For that to happen, a campaign must secure about 122K valid signatures from state voters. The process additionally requires signatures from at least 5% of registered voters in a minimum of 38 counties.
Morgan is hopeful that once the results of the poll are released, state lawmakers will be more willing to embrace an online sports betting bill.
About 65% of voters supported the 2020 referendums authorizing racetrack casinos. Once the casinos are built and the market matures, the state expects to receive around $400 million annually in gaming taxes. Nebraska levies a 20% tax on all casino games.
Mobile Dominates Betting
Many sports betting states allow both in-person and online sports betting. And, in those states, bettors heavily prefer betting remotely via sportsbook apps.
In New Jersey, oddsmakers took almost $12 billion in bets last year. Online books accounted for 95.5% of the action or $11.4 billion. Casino and racetrack sportsbooks took $528 million in wagers.
Critics of online sports betting say mobile gambling increases problem gambling rates.
“Sports betting is just atrocious. You can sit on the phone and lose your home,” opined Pat Loontjer, the executive director of Gambling With the Good Life, a nonprofit that campaigns against gaming initiatives in Nebraska.
After the 2020 referendums, Loontjer predicted that the state’s foray into commercial gaming was “only the beginning.”
“Will they begin offering sports betting on cellphones?” Loontjer asked at the time. “It will destroy the integrity of sports and corrupt our young people.”