Nebraska is trying to clear up the air and decide on a course of action insofar as to what the best way to introduce casinos to the state is. After the November 2020 vote which was backed with overwhelming support by voters to allow casino-style gambling and sports betting at existing racinos, more debates have followed to try and determine how many casinos there should be.
One of the main gripes of the discussion is that casinos should be allowed only on the territory of the existing racinos – a total of six in the state. However, some lawmakers believe that casinos should spring in other locations as well. This opens a new problem – if new casinos (outside racinos) are to be approved, how far or close can they be to the existing racinos? Some have suggested 50 miles but others want the distance to be a minimum of 150 miles.
Meanwhile, Legislative Bill 876 advanced through the General Affairs Committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote. The bill is pondering o the issues outlined above, including how many total properties should be allowed. The General Affairs Committee chair Tom Briese is confident that a middle-ground solution should be sought, which includes additional measures before any new casinos may be opened.
Some have been calling for new properties in locations such as Bellevue, Norfolk, Gering, Ogallala, and North Platte. For any of this to happen though, anyone wishing to introduce a casino there would have to carry out exhaustive feasibility studies. Briese also advised that it should be up to the State Racing Commission to decide whether new casinos should be allowed and how many – based on those studies.
Given those unique regulatory prerequisites, Briese is confident to call the current outcome of the situation a "moratorium" as any feasibility study and subsequent decisions would take a fairly long time – how much time exactly, Briese is unable to tell. Some, such as the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce have said that casinos should exist only on the land of the current racetracks, to name Omaha, Lincoln, South Sioux City, Hastings, Grand Island, and Columbus.
Meanwhile, the Nebraska State Racing Commission is still working on the conditions for enabling sports and casino gambling on the premises of the existing racinos. There has been no effort to expand the remit of sports betting as well.
A recent study conducted in Nebraska with 21,782 respondents indicated that 60% of people in Nebraska would be okay with allowing sports wagers at sports facilities such as the Memorial Stadium in Lincoln for example. Only 27% said that they viewed such action very negatively.
In terms of demographics, people who were 25 or younger were understandably more benevolent towards sports betting. Eighty-three percent of people said that they either viewed the activity neutrally or were actually interested in it. The biggest percentage of negative views originated in the groups of people aged between 55 and 74.
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