Nebraska Sports Betting and Gambling Legislation Met With Opposition at Public Hearing

  • Senator Justin Wayne defines sports betting, poker, fantasy sports as games of skill
  • He claims Nebraska's gambling laws are outdated, expects legalization to bring in $320m
  • Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, Stop Predatory Gambling national director among objectors
Nebraska Cornhuskers football player
Monday’s Nebraska legislative committee hearing saw Senator Justin Wayne’s three proposed gambling measures receive criticism from several opponents. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Senator deems current gambling laws “outdated”

Monday’s legislative public hearing saw proposals for the legalization of sports betting and other gambling forms in Nebraska being met with opposition.

Senator Justin Wayne of Omaha brought forward two bills and a constitutional amendment which, if passed, would see Nebraska become the 20th US state to legalize sports gambling.

According to Wayne, the lead sponsor of all three measures, sports betting, poker, and fantasy sports are games of skill rather than gambling. He also said Nebraskans are already gambling, with many in the state crossing over to Iowa to do so.

Wayne expects legal sports betting and gambling in Nebraska to bring in $320m that is currently being spent at Iowa casinos. He added:

Our gambling laws are outdated. The fact of the matter is they’re counterproductive.”

Many at the hearing, which mainly centered on sports betting bill LB971, expressed disagreement with Wayne’s measures. The committee did not take immediate action on the proposals.

Objectors concerned about legal gambling repercussions

Former University of Nebraska head football coach Tom Osborne was among the bills’ opponents. He maintained that sports betting preys on the weaknesses of “those who can least afford it”, arguing that legal betting would eventually ruin the integrity of the sport.

Les Bernal, national director of US organization Stop Predatory Gambling, questioned Wayne’s statement that Nebraskans are already gambling, calling it “a recycled argument” that pits states against each other. He also informed the hearing committee that the state’s inhabitants have already gambled $1.2bn on the Nebraska Lottery since 1993.

Gambling with the Good Life’s executive director, Pat Loontjer, delivered a statement ahead of Monday’s session. She said:

We have seen the devastation that comes with gambling: addiction, crime, divorce, embezzlements and even suicides.”

Loontjer added that the state has a duty to “benefit our families and businesses, not to prey upon them.”

Owner of company gone bankrupt due to gambling speaks up

Former business owner Jenise Brown is also staunchly opposed to the Nebraska gambling measures. 1011 Now reported that Brown lost her company, Colombo Candy & Tobacco Wholesale, when an employee embezzled $4m to fuel a gambling addiction.

In 2011, Caroline Richardson lost nearly $2m on slot machines. According to The Atlantic, she went on to steal $4.1m from her employer over the course of two years to fund her gambling addiction. She was sentenced in 2014 to between 14 and 20 years in prison.

Speaking about the ordeal, Brown said: “This industry destroyed my family’s financial well-being and it has been a stress I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”