One hundred out of 100 times keno is going to lose out to slot machines because, simply put, people love their slots.
However, a new bill signed into law by Gov. Jim Pillen late last month aims to strengthen keno’s position in the Nebraska gaming market by legalizing the sale of mobile keno tickets at licensed Nebraska lottery locations.
Sen. John Cavanaugh, whose original bill (LB232) laid the groundwork for the bill that eventually became law, said the legislation brings keno into the current gaming era.
“LB232 would modernize the way keno can be played,” Cavanaugh said in a statement. “We can get flights, order groceries, pay parking meters and order lunch [online].”
Additionally, a statement from the Nebraska legislature notes that the new law will help keno grab a bigger share of the Nebraska iGaming market.
“The provisions would modernize keno…so that municipalities can better compete with casino gaming in Nebraska,” a March statement from the legislature said about Cavanaugh’s thoughts on the bill.
Law adds digital purchases and new funding sources
The key components of the law are two-fold: lottery retailers can sell digital tickets to anyone on their premises, and customers can use new payment types.
The Nebraska lottery app uses geolocation technology to track where a user is located when they open the lottery app. This type of technology is standard for all gaming apps in the United States.
Because of the law, lottery keno apps allow on-premises purchases based on geolocation technology. An app’s location services should be precise enough to allow you to only buy a digital keno ticket when you’re physically on the lottery’s premises. Basically, geolocation acts like a fence. If you’re inside the fence, you can purchase a digital keno ticket. If you’re outside the fence, you can’t.
New payment types
The law now allows additional payment types for digital keno purchases: debit card, bank account, prepaid cash account or the cash balance of a payment app.
However, credit card payments and transfers are still prohibited.
Law had industry, Omaha mayoral support
Big Red Keno is a major keno operator in Nebraska. The company’s general counsel testified in support of the law when it was proposed as a bill in the legislature. The beauty of the bill from a lottery retailer’s perspective, he said, is that they aren’t required to offer digital keno. This is because each city has the final say in its keno games.
Omaha Mayor Jack Cheloha said digital keno will help the city generate more revenue for “community betterment purposes.” Currently, keno generates around $12 million a year for the City of Omaha. So far, the city has used the money to:
- Buy new police cruisers
- Provide funding for the Nebraska Humane Society
- Economic development
- Educational programs for workers in the city
New law continues Nebraska’s gaming transformation
With this new keno law in effect, the Nebraska gaming industry has taken another step in transforming itself into a modern gaming state. In November 2020, voters legalized commercial casinos. Then, in May 2021, lawmakers passed a bill that legalized sports betting.
A similar attempt to legalize digital keno purchases at bars and keno halls was pulled from a bill in May 2021.
Nebraska’s first commercial casino opened in September (WarHorse Casino Lincoln), followed by another opening in December at Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park. Both facilities are temporary casinos that are in place until permanent casinos are completed.