Nebraska Bill Paves Way for Casinos at Horse Racetracks

  • The bill has advanced to the full legislature for debate after receiving committee approval
  • It would block the development of other casinos until the NRGC carries out an impact study
  • Some legislators wanted to cap casino licenses and have a minimum distance between casinos
  • Nebraska casino gambling became possible following a successful public vote in November 2020
Nebraska sign
A bill relating to the development of casinos at racetracks in Nebraska is making progress. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Moving forward

A bill in Nebraska that would allow for casinos at the state’s six horse racetracks is making progress. The Nebraska Legislature’s General Affairs Committee advanced Legislative Bill 876 on Tuesday following a 7-0 vote. It will now go to the full legislature for a debate.

would block the development of casinos in other areas of the state

The measure would allow for casinos in the state’s six counties with licensed racetracks. It also would block the development of casinos in other areas of the state until the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission (NRGC) carries out a detailed study into the possible impact they might have.

The NRGC would then approve or reject additional license requests based on the analysis. If the bill ultimately gets the green light, the study would have to be complete by January 2025 at the latest.

Striking a balance

General Affairs Committee chairman Senator Tom Briese believes the proposal provides a balance between casino proponents and those who have concerns about too much gambling in Nebraska. The committee has debated a number of key issues regarding the legislation over the past few weeks.

the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce has pushed for no cap

Previous proposals sought to cap the number of possible casino licenses in Nebraska with a minimum distance requirement between properties. Meanwhile, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce has pushed for no cap on the number of casinos, while horse racing officials have affirmed that they only want six in the state.

The six counties that will have access to casino gambling if LB 876 makes it into law are all in central and eastern Nebraska. These counties include Platte, Hall, Dakota, Adams, Lancaster, and Douglas. The other locations also seeking a racino license are Ogallala, Gering, North Platte, Norfolk, and Bellevue.

Gambling expansion

Casino gambling became a reality in Nebraska after a public vote in November 2020. It allowed for the development of casinos at the state’s horse racing tracks. The proposed legal framework for casinos in Nebraska was introduced in November. It will see casinos pay a $1m fee for a 20-year license.

During the same ballot, a measure seeking to legalize all games of chance received the green light. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts signed the bill into law in May 2021. It allows for in-person sports betting in the state, as well as other games of chance like roulette and blackjack.

Another gambling measure currently gaining momentum in the state is Legislative Bill 1268. It calls for lottery tickets to be available to buy from vending machines.