LINCOLN – Nebraska’s first horse-racing casino is set to open later this month in Lincoln.
The temporary WarHorse Casino housed in the horse racing simulcast building at Lincoln Racecourse will feature 433 slot machines. There will be no table games, as officials say there is not enough room.
Another thing he won’t have is sports betting.
The gambling ballot measures that won overwhelming support from Nebraska voters in November 2020 not only allowed casinos in the state, but they also opened the door to betting on sporting events.
And when the Spring 2021 Legislature established the framework for casino gaming in the state, the law included provisions for sports betting.
But while the rules for casino games were finalized earlier this year, the process of drafting the rules for sports betting hasn’t even started yet.
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Tom Sage, director of the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, said sports betting will go through a separate rulemaking process before the commission, just like casino games.
That means a public hearing and a vote by the commission, followed by review by the Nebraska attorney general’s office and approval by the governor’s office.
Sage said proposed rules for sports betting were created and the industry was allowed to review them and make comments and suggestions. These comments have been considered and the rules are tentatively set to go to the Racing and Gaming Commission for a public hearing on October 21.
It took around five months for the casino rules to be approved by the Governor after the Races and Gaming Commission voted on them in December, so if the process takes the same amount of time, it would mean the sports betting rules could be in place by March or April next year.
Sage declined to speculate on whether the approval time will be the same, shorter or longer than for casino games.
The timeline means that at best, sports betting will be available in Nebraska about 2½ years after voter approval.
Compare that to Kansas, where sports betting began on Thursday, just months after the state legislature approved it.
But Kansas had some advantages over Nebraska. First, it already has casinos, so it didn’t have to create new rules for gambling. Second, Kansas law allows mobile sports betting.
The Nebraska Legislature chose to require all sports betting to take place in person at Nebraska casinos, which Sage says is “the main reason” why it took so long for sports betting to kick off in Nebraska.
Because all betting must take place in person at a casino, there was no reason to develop rules for sports betting until there were casinos in the state, he said. he declares.
“We could have had sports betting rules (already), but we wouldn’t have had room to have sports betting,” Sage said.
Whenever sports betting rules are approved, WarHorse will be ready to take bets.
“As soon as sports betting is approved in the state of Nebraska, we will offer it,” said Lynne McNally, CEO of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which is partnering to open WarHorse casinos in Lincoln and Omaha.
McNally said sports betting will be added to Lincoln’s temporary casino once it becomes available. A temporary casino is not expected to open in Omaha until late 2023, so it will likely offer sports betting from the start.
It’s not yet clear what the plans are for Fonner Park, which hopes to open a temporary casino on Grand Island by Thanksgiving.
Sharon Haselhoff, regional vice president of Elite Casino Resorts, Fonner’s casino partner, said the company operates sports betting at casinos in Iowa and Colorado and plans to have one on Grand Island.” in accordance with the rule established by the commission”.
“We are waiting to see what the final rules for sports betting will be,” she said.
McNally said she appreciated Gov. Pete Ricketts’ timely approval of the casino rules once they were voted on by the commission and approved by the attorney general.
“So hopefully the process will go just as fast for sports betting,” she said.
Depending on the timing, it is likely that a new governor, either Republican Jim Pillen or Democrat Carol Blood, will make that decision.
One thing that will need to be clarified throughout the rulemaking process is the steps casinos will need to take to add sports betting once the rules are approved.
Sage said he thinks it could be a simple process involving administrative approval by his office, or commission members could decide whether to approve each sports betting operation.