The history of gambling in Nebraska begins with stories set in Old West saloons and houses stretching from Sidney in the panhandle to the capitol in Lincoln. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the state’s largest city of Omaha, on the Missouri River, was one of the country’s most notable gambling hot spots.
Even so, all gambling in Nebraska was illegal until 1934, when the state amended its constitution to allow pari-mutuel horse race betting at licensed racetracks. Additional amendments came later to allow other forms of betting such as the lottery, followed by more advancements in 2020 and 2021. But relatively speaking, Nebraska today represents one of the less gambling-friendly states in the US. Most forms of Nebraska online gambling and online casinos are prohibited.
Before 2021, casino gambling was limited to a handful of tribal casinos. During the 2020 election, Nebraska residents voted in favor of a gambling expansion in the state, including the ability to play games inside casinos located at approved racetracks. The new law also allows in-person sports betting, but fell short of expanding online gambling. Read on to learn more about the chances of Nebraska legalizing online casinos and the current gambling landscape.
Play slots and video poker online in Nebraska
Can you legally gamble online in Nebraska?
No, online gambling such as online casinos and poker sites is strictly prohibited in Nebraska. Real money online casinos like Golden Nugget or BetMGM are not available in Nebraska. TwinSpires and TVG do not operate in the state but online horse betting is legal. There are other forms of online gambling available in the state such as sweepstakes casino games. Daily fantasy sports contests exist and operate in a legal gray area in the state. So it’s a dark state of affairs for online gambling in Nebraska but not completely lacking in legal options.
Are online casinos legal in Nebraska?
No. Nebraska has yet to entertain the idea of legal online casinos. In the absence of Nebraska online casinos, those players needing to scratch an online gaming itch can take part in sweepstakes and social casinos that offer cash prizes. The most popular are Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots. Customers can try dozens of games, including slots, that resemble games found at Nebraska tribal casinos.
Can you play online poker in Nebraska?
Nope. Unfortunately, the Cornhusker State does not allow legal online poker sites such as PokerStars, either. But you are not without options if a game of poker is what you’re looking for. One popular option is Global Poker. Customers can participate in cash games and tournaments, as well as play unique games like Crazy Pineapple.
Will Nebraska regulate online gambling in the future?
We’re going to have to answer “no” on this one as well. Nebraska had a hard enough time expanding gambling in 2021, so the idea of any additional forms of online gambling remains an afterthought at best, a no-go at worst.
Gov. Pete Ricketts signed LB 561 in 2021, which created the state gambling commission, legalized retail sports betting in Nebraska and allowed the construction of casinos at the state’s six horse tracks. However, the bill omitted all forms of online gambling.
Legal NE online gambling vs. offshore sites
So, online casinos and poker sites are unavailable and illegal in Nebraska. This makes sweepstakes and social casinos the only legitimate forms of playing casino games online in Nebraska. A real money site that accepts players from Nebraska should be approached with caution. Betting on offshore sites comes with a number of risks including but not limited to:
- Trustworthiness: Winnings can often be delayed six to eight weeks, sometimes longer. There is also the fear of losing all your money and no guarantee of receiving your winnings. Unfortunately, if this occurs, you have no legal recourse since the US does not have authority to prosecute offshore betting sites.
- Site security: There is no oversight or consumer protections to prevent misuse of your personal and banking information.
- Safety and fairness: This goes hand-in-hand with site security. If there is no oversight and no recourse for any issues you run into, the safety of your money and your identity are at risk.
With legal gambling sites, customers can bet safely knowing their personal information will not be used for any other purposes. Most importantly, legal sites pay out winnings promptly, and consumer protections are in place via state regulations to prevent any types of fraud from taking place.
Who will regulate online gambling in Nebraska?
The newly formed Nebraska State Racing & Gaming Commission regulates gambling in Nebraska. LB 561, a bill to expand gambling in the state, also established the commission. If online gambling ever becomes legal, the commission would be the governing body, as it is for brick-and-mortar gambling in Nebraska.
What is the legal gambling age in Nebraska?
The legal gambling age in Nebraska is 19 for horse race betting, bingo, lottery games and keno. For sports betting and casino gambling in Nebraska, players must be 21.
Responsible gambling resources
Should you or anyone you know experience a gambling addiction, the Nebraska Commission on Problem Gambling will offer help. Nebraska offers free, confidential counseling for Nebraskans and their families. You can call 1-833-BetOver (238-6837).
The Nebraska Council on Compulsive Gambling is also a resource to those suffering from gambling addiction.
- Address: 127 S. 37th St., Suite B, Lincoln, NE
- Phone: 402-806-5096
- Email: [email protected]
- Website: www.NEproblemgambling.org
- Helpline: 833-BETOVER (238-6837)
Types of legal gambling in Nebraska
Following constitutional amendments that voters passed last year, Nebraska will be home to commercial casinos that will offer casino-style gambling at existing racetracks. This includes the legalization of slots, table games and retail sportsbooks. There are also five tribal casinos in Nebraska, operated by four federally recognized tribes, a couple of which also operate casinos in neighboring Iowa. Nebraska also has a state lottery, although online lottery games are illegal. So here’s the rundown of what is legal gambling in Nebraska:
- Horse betting
- Charitable gambling (raffles, bingo)
- Sports betting — retail only, pending
- Commercial casinos — pending
- Tribal casino gambling
Are there casinos and racinos in Nebraska?
Nebraska’s five tribal casinos are all on reservations in the northern and eastern parts of the state. The largest is the Ohiya Casino & Resort in Niobrara, with the Rosebud Casino in Valentine the next in size. It should be noted that the Rosebud Casino sits on the state line of Nebraska and South Dakota and can be enjoyed by residents from each state.
|Iron Horse Bar & Casino||Emerson||Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska||89|
|Native Star Casino||Winnebago||Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska||88|
|Lucky 77 Casino||Walthill||Omaha Tribe of Nebraska||77|
|Ohiya Casino & Resort||Niobrara||Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska||410|
|Rosebud Casino||Valentine||Rosebud Sioux Tribe||250|
But the five tribal casinos will have competition soon. Nebraska’s new expanded gambling law will allow for the construction of casinos at the six horse tracks across the state. All will be able to offer casino-style games. Five of the six horse tracks have partnerships in place to develop new casino resorts with tentative launch timelines in place.
|Racetrack||Location||Casino Partner||Casino ETA|
|Atokad Park||South Sioux City||WarHorse Gaming||Sometime in 2022|
|Horsemen's Park||Omaha||WarHorse Gaming||Late 2021 or early 2022|
|Lincoln Race Course||Lincoln||WarHorse Gaming||Late 2021 or early 2022|
|Columbus Exposition & Racing||Columbus||Caesars Entertainment||Late 2022|
|Fonner Park||Grand Island||Elite Casino Resorts||Late 2022 or early 2023|
Fairplay Park does not yet have a casino partner, but the historic racetrack submitted three proposals to the Adams County Agricultural Society. Horsemen’s Park is expected to have 1,200 gambling machines, live and simulcast horse racing, table games, and a sportsbook. Columbus Exposition & Racing will build a brand new $75 million, 40,000-square-foot Harrah’s casino complex. The space will offer 400 slot machines, 20 table games, and a sportsbook. At Fonner Park, the plan is to transform the property into the Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park, complete with 650 slot machines, 20 table games, and a sportsbook.
Types of games at Nebraska casinos
Tribal casinos are mostly limited to bingo and slot machines in the state. The Ohiya Casino & Resort has the most machines (410), while Lucky 77 Casino has the fewest (77). In comparison, with the passage of LB 561, horse tracks will be able to add traditional casino games like slot machines, as well as table games (craps, roulette) and retail sportsbooks.
The tribes can renegotiate their compacts with the state to offer more Las Vegas-style games and sportsbooks but have yet to do so.
Horse racing in Nebraska
It is legal to bet on horse racing in Nebraska. In 1934, the state amended its constitution to allow pari-mutuel horse race betting at licensed tracks. There are a half-dozen racetracks in the state, the largest and most active being Fonner Park in Grand Island. It is legal, as well, to place wagers on races happening elsewhere via off-track betting and simulcast betting.
Is online horse betting legal in Nebraska?
Yes, you can bet on horses online in Nebraska. It is one of the few legal forms of online gambling allowed in the state. However, TVG does not operate in the state and neither does TwinSpires. Instead, the options are limited to BetAmerica.
Even though the options are not numerous and given the relative lack of other alternatives for those wishing to gamble online in Nebraska, online horse betting is a safe and secure option for many.
History of gambling in Nebraska
It wasn’t until the 2020 election cycle that Nebraska decided to embrace the gambling wave sweeping the US. Residents voted on a pair of gambling initiatives, one of which called for the authorization of gambling operations at racetracks and the creation of the Nebraska State Racing & Gaming Commission. A second ballot measure allowed casino-style gambling at horse tracks across the state. Both measures passed in November 2020, with the state Legislature following with corresponding laws in 2021. But before then, gambling was overall almost nonexistent in Nebraska.
The first legal form of gambling arrived in 1934 when the state gave the OK to horse betting and the state’s racetracks and (a few decades later) online. But gambling online as a whole is prohibited in the state. The first tribal casino opened its doors in the early 1990s. Around that time, in 1993, Nebraska added a state lottery as well as certain forms of charitable gaming and social gaming. Keno, raffles and some other games are available at licensed establishments that serve alcohol, too.