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Nebraska’s Gaming Tax Reaches New January Record

Written By Derek Helling on February 26, 2024
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Although data do not specify exact sources, the first January with legal sports betting available at Nebraska “racinos” (horse racing tracks that also offer casino gaming) produced a record gaming tax haul for the month. Correlation is certainly not equal to causation but that’s a hell of a coincidence if it’s merely that.

The four racinos combined to contribute over $1.4 million in gaming taxes for January 2024, an improvement of 13.7% compared with January 2023. That not only sets gaming tax revenue up to set a new record for an entire calendar year in 2024 but also could provide some context clues as to the value of sports wagering in the state.

Record January expected for Nebraska’s racinos

No one had to call Miss Cleo to prognosticate that Nebraska’s gaming tax would improve upon its previous and only January performance from 2023 to 2024. Actually, it would have been a surprise if that hadn’t happened.

According to the Nebraska Racing Commission’s January 2024 gaming tax report, the tax haul didn’t disappoint.

In January 2023, racinos had not yet started to accept sports wagers from patrons. Additionally, Harrah’s Columbus and WarHorse Omaha were not yet open for gambling beyond betting on horse races. Harrah’s Columbus expanded its gaming in June 2023, while WarHorse Omaha did so in November 2023.

Regardless of the expectations, 2024 is off to a great start to become the new most lucrative year for gambling taxes in Nebraska. While the Nebraska Racing Commission doesn’t report actual gaming revenue numbers or break them down, it’s still possible to make some guesses about how much sportsbooks may be contributing.

Reading the room on Nebraska sports betting

Powers of deduction can be quite useful with a little bit of information. The Nebraska Racing Commission’s tax revenue reports give exact figures from each property and a statewide total every month. Knowing the state’s tax rate for casino gaming, a flat 20%, it’s possible to do some simple math.

For example, we can infer that if WarHorse Omaha contributed $17,005.11 in taxes in January, the racino’s taxable revenue must have been five times that amount. That produces a figure of around $85,025.55. That sum represents a rough estimate of what WarHorse Omaha made off its racebook and sportsbook as those were the only types of gaming that the property offered in January.

January is often one of the most robust months for sports betting in the United States due to it containing the NFL playoffs. If there is any place to have a physical sportsbook in Nebraska, it’s Omaha, being the state’s most populous city. Thus, this represented the zenith of what Nebraska can currently muster in terms of legal sports betting activity.

With all that information taken into consideration, it’s safe to say that the current state of legal sports betting in Nebraska is pretty inconsequential. With Nebraskans able to cross the border into Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, or Wyoming and place legal online bets, this data just strengthens the narrative that few Nebraskans are likely making a trip to a racino to place their sports bets.

The vast majority of gaming tax revenue in Nebraska is probably coming from slots and table games. As long as the state keeps online sports betting illegal, it’s likely forfeiting the same from sports betting.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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