Gambling options in Nebraska are sparse thanks to strict gaming laws that prohibit most forms of gambling. Land-based casinos are practically nonexistent apart from a few tribal “casinos” with a handful of slot machines. Full-fledged casinos with table games and more than a few slots are prohibited statewide.
The state has considered legalizing traditional casino gaming as recently as 2014 but those measures have gone nowhere. Online betting in Nebraska is similarly restricted. Anything that could be construed as a game of chance is prohibited on the internet. The only forms of real money online betting that are legal in the state are fantasy sports and games of skill.
Legal and Safe Nebraska Betting Sites
Games of Skill:
It’s unlikely online poker or casinos will come to Nebraska in the near future. The state can’t even get voters to agree on land-based casinos despite an abundance of NE gamblers heading to Iowa to get their game on. The state’s small population and general dislike of gambling in all its forms make it an unlikely candidate to join the list of states that already have or will soon legalize online gaming.
The gaming options may be limited, but there are still a few options for gamblers in Nebraska. Read on to learn about what is legal, what the laws say and a general overview of what you can bet on in the Cornhusker State.
Fantasy sports betting is the closest thing Nebraska has to legitimate online gambling. Fantasy betting sites set up leagues for every major professional sports organization and allow members to draft teams for week-long or daily contests. The goal in each contest is to draft a team from players around the league and score more points than anyone else competing in the same contest. As your players rack up stats in the real world, your fantasy teams racks up points in the fantasy league.
There are two fantasy betting sites in particular that stand out for their size and variety of games. FanDuel.com and DraftKings.com offer fantasy leagues every day of the week for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, college sports and sometimes the PGA. Each site hosts hundreds of contests every day with prizes sometimes exceeding a million dollars.
Fantasy betting is a lot of fun and the prizes in recent years have grown to new highs. Not even the biggest online sportsbooks can claim to have as much action and turnover as fantasy betting. If you have a knack for sports wagering, fantasy sports offer a legal alternative that will put those same skills to use.
One of the best things about fantasy betting is you do not compete against the house like you do in traditional fixed odds sports betting. Every game is a contest between you and the other players. It is very possible to achieve a long term positive winning record if you are more skilled than your opposition.
Out of all forms of legal betting available in Nebraska, fantasy leagues are the biggest and most rewarding. With prizes sometimes topping seven figures and dozens of contests open at any given time, fantasy betting is at the top of the food chain in NE.
A New Effort to Regulate Fantasy Sports in Nebraska: Legislative Bill 469
To date, fantasy sports contests have been considered legal in Nebraska simply because they aren’t illegal. A bill introduced by state Senator Tyson Larson seeks to formally legalize daily fantasy sports, regulate the industry and collect registration fees from companies that offer real money games in Nebraska.
LB469 was introduced in January of 2017 and again in 2018 with the intention of creating the “Fantasy Contests Act” to regulate daily fantasy sports and to amend existing law to ensure these games are not classified as illegal gambling in Nebraska.
The Fantasy Contests Act will require all fantasy site operators to register with the Department of Revenue and pay a $10,000 registration fee once approved by the department. Each year after that, operators will be required to pay a renewal fee equal to 6% of gross revenue up to a maximum of $10,000.
The bill will also require licensed fantasy sites in Nebraska to adhere to a standard set of regulations and guidelines such as preventing employees of operators from participating, prohibiting the participation of athletes or other sporting officials who participate in events upon which fantasy contests are based, prohibit anyone under 19 from participating, segregating players’ funds from operating funds and so on.
Opposition to the bill originates from two sides with differing views as to why the bill should be blocked. On one side are smaller fantasy operators who argue that the registration fees are too high to maintain a competitive market, as only the bigger operators will be able to afford paying upwards of $10,000 a year to operate just in Nebraska.
On the other side are anti-gambling groups who argue that this bill is nothing more than an expansion of gambling even if the major fantasy operators contend their games are based on skill. The policy director for the Nebraska Family Alliance claimed that “fantasy sports gambling is simply an online casino under the guise of fantasy football” and expressed concerns that this law will have a harmful impact on problem gambling in Nebraska.
The odds of this bill making it through the legislature remain unclear at this time. This bill was successfully blocked from progressing in 2017 and was filibustered again in 2018. Things could change if Senator Larson is able to drum up more support for the bill among colleagues, but opposition to the bill remains steadfast.
Online Poker in Nebraska
Poker as a whole is largely illegal in Nebraska. The law makes it clear that anything not exempted from the state’s total ban on all gambling (including poker) is unlawful. The state doesn’t even permit charity poker events or social poker games played at home.
Considering this, it is unlikely online poker will be coming to Nebraska any time soon. There are no casinos that host real money poker and state lawmakers have little interest in regulating online poker at this time. The outlook for poker in Nebraska is not good in the near future.
It’s always possible this will change of course. Overall, the United States is slowly warming up to the idea of online gaming. A number of states have already legalized online poker and casinos. As the nation as a whole moves towards regulation and away from prohibition, it is likely Nebraska will move in the same direction at some point. We just don’t know when that will be.
Tyson Larson, the same state Senator who has been attempting to pass fantasy sports legislation, introduced a bill in 2015 that sought to classify poker as a game of skill. His bill would have exempted poker from Nebraska’s anti-gambling laws and permitted games involving only cash and players age 21 or older. The bill did not seek to approve online poker in Nebraska, but it would have served as a starting point in that effort.
Larson put up a strong argument for classifying poker as a game of skill by making the point that “you can be a professional poker player; you cannot be a professional coin flipper. You can lose a poker game on purpose; you can’t lose a coin flip on purpose. You can have the worst hand in poker but be the best player.
“The math is there; the statistics are there. Poker is a game of skill; it is not a game of chance.”
His bill lingered in the legislative process for about a year, but was finally killed after a six-hour debate failed to generate the 33 votes it needed to force a vote on the bill.
Nebraska state laws permit parimutuel horse racing betting at any licensed racetrack. Simulcasting is allowed at those tracks but off-track betting (OTB) is not permitted, nor is online racing betting. Anyone who wants to bet on a horse race must head to a track in person.
All racing activity in the state is regulated by the Nebraska State Racing Commission. The commission is responsible for licensing tracks, approving racing events, ensuring fairness and monitoring the conducts of tracks, teams and handlers.
Even though horse racing wagering is legal in Nebraska, the options for betting on horses are limited. The state’s five racetracks host only a few days of live racing each year. The rest of the year is dedicated to simulcasting of events hosted at other locations.
Games of Skill
Nebraska’s gaming laws permit wagers to be placed by the participants in any contest of skill. This would include the likes of bowling tournaments, pool, darts and athletic competition. The people placing wagers must be participants and their ability to win money must rely entirely on skill and not on chance.
Online games of skill are permitted in Nebraska. To date, there is only one major skill gaming website that operates in the US: WorldWinner.com. World Winner hosts a variety of arcade-style games in which the goal is to get a higher point-total than your opponent and win money. Wagers and gaming options are limited but it can be fun to try your skill with a little cash on the line.
The Nebraska Lottery was established in 1993 and since then has raised more than $527 million for charitable initiatives in the state. About one-quarter of all lottery sales end up benefitting the state’s environmental trust, education, the Nebraska state fair and compulsive gambling assistance.
Lottery tickets are not sold online and no third-party websites are authorized to sell tickets over the internet. Any website that you see offering to purchase tickets on your behalf is completely unregulated and could very well be a scam. Lottery retailers are located all over the place, so it’s best to just stick with what’s safe and purchase your tickets in person. You’ll feel much more at ease if you win a $10 million prize knowing your ticket is legit and will be honored.
Nebraska’s gaming laws do not specifically mention the internet but they really don’t need to. The state is insistent that any form of gambling that hasn’t previously been authorized is unlawful. This would include any form of online betting outside of fantasy sports and games of skill.
The same laws that prohibit participation in unlawful gambling could also be applied to people who visit offshore gaming sites. However, this has never happened. There is not a single report anywhere in the state of a person ever being prosecuted for placing bets at unlicensed gaming sites.
As is the case with online poker, it is highly unlikely that we will see legal online casinos in Nebraska any time soon. The state has a hard-enough time getting people to even consider bringing land-based casinos to the state. A proposal to allow instant gaming machine at state racetracks was shot down as recently as September 2014.
Land-based casinos are almost entirely nonexistent. There are a couple of small tribal casinos located in the state but all they have are small collections of slot machines. Most of these casinos could better be described as taverns with a few gaming machines. The only resort-casino in the state is limited to 400 slot machines and live bingo.
State Gambling Laws
Nebraska takes the approach of outlawing all gambling other than the few forms of gambling that are explicitly legal. The state defines gambling as an activity that includes the three elements of consideration, risk and reward. Consideration means someone pays something of value to participate. Chance means the outcome of the game is not dependent entirely upon skill. Reward means there is an opportunity to win something.
And yes, poker is considered a game of chance in Nebraska. Even though skilled poker players pretty much all agree this is a game of skill, it’s not up to use to decide how the state defines “games of chance.” For now, poker is considered a game of chance no matter how silly we may find that.
Wagering is only legal in Nebraska when at least one of those three elements is removed from the equation. For example, a poker tournament that awards prizes to the players but is free to enter still contains chance and reward but includes no consideration (because it’s free to play). This would be considered a legal poker game.
Any contest that costs money to enter must remove one of the other two elements: chance or reward. You could pay money to enter a charity poker tournament if there was no chance of winning a prize. Or, if you wanted to host a contest of skill such as setting up a bowling tournament, the element of chance would be removed because the outcome of such a tournament would rely on skill and not chance.
The only forms of legal gambling in Nebraska are defined in State Statute 28-1101. This includes licensed charity bingo games, the state lottery, charity raffles and authorized charity lotteries. The state constitution was amended in 1934 to legalize horse racing betting at licensed parimutuel racetracks. The state constitution was amended again in 1988 to permit local racetracks to simulcast and accept wagers on horse racing events hosted outside the state.
Again, anything not explicitly stated as legal in the state constitution or statutes is considered unlawful. There are penalties for anyone who promotes or advances unlawful gambling activity in the state. 28-1102 and 28-1103 plainly state the penalties for participating in unlawful gambling.
28-1103 makes it a Class II misdemeanor to organize OR participate in unlicensed gambling with the following text:
(a) Engaging in bookmaking to the extent that he or she receives or accepts in any one day one or more bets totaling less than one thousand dollars;
(b) Receiving, in connection with any unlawful gambling scheme or enterprise, less than one thousand dollars of money played in the scheme or enterprise in any one day; or
(c) Betting something of value in an amount of three hundred dollars or more with one or more persons in one day.
28-1102 steps up the penalties if the money involved totals a thousand dollars or more in one day. The first offense is a Class I misdemeanor, followed by a Class IV felony for the second offense and a Class III felony for all further offenses.
It is conceivable that these offenses could be applied to someone who participates in unlawful offshore gambling. However, this has never happened in Nebraska. State authorities routinely crack down on local gambling activities and would surely prosecute anyone operating a poker site or online casino within the state.
But as far as being a simple player goes, the risk of getting in trouble for playing games online is small. It is still illegal, but the state has no effective means to police internet usage. The main reason we don’t recommend you break the law is because of the financial risk that comes with playing at unregulated gaming sites hosted in foreign countries.