Lawmakers debate over allowing sports betting in casinos

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Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - After a 37-5 vote Wednesday, lawmakers passed a casino regulation bill that includes sports betting. Lawmakers argue when Nebraskans voted for casinos in November, it meant sports betting was also legalized.

Plans for Lincoln’s casino are already in place including areas where people can bet on sports.

Ho-Chunk, Inc. CEO Lance Morgan said, “It’s almost like a glorified sports bar and we’ll have simulcasting and that stuff going on.”

Morgan said his group didn’t ask for the bill. What he does want is lawmakers to give people what they voted for.

“Nebraska voters did authorize all games of chance. It’s pretty clear from the attorney general that games of chance include sports betting,” Morgan said.

Sen. Tom Briese introduced LB 561 that permits sports betting in designated areas of licensed casinos. Gamblers can bet on professional, international and collegiate sporting events.

“If I felt [AM 640] was an expansion of gambling beyond the voter’s mandate, I wouldn’t be supporting it,” Sen. Briese said.

There are some state senators concerned about adding sports betting, specifically betting on Husker football games.

Sen. Joni Albrecht said, “If nobody brought it, does it have to be a reason we put it into the law?”

“We don’t need a majority of Nebraska betting on the Husker team. These are kids,” Lincoln senator Patty Pansing Brooks said.

Gamblers would be unable to bet on individuals in a college game and unable to bet on sporting events where athletes are under 18.

Sen. Justin Wayne said, “If you don’t like gambling, which some you don’t clearly, you need to vote for this amendment or you’re going to open up sports betting wider than it’s ever been interpreted.”

The sports betting amendment will be added to the bill by Enrollment and Review. It will have two more readings before it can go to the Governor’s desk.

Ho-Chunk hopes regulations get passed soon so they can break ground on Lincoln’s casino.

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