Nebraska Introduces Online Poker Bill: LB 990
While much of the focus regarding online poker in the United States has been placed on Michigan and West Virginia recently, people may wish to take a look at Nebraska now too. The Cornhusker State has recently introduced a new gambling bill, which would see online poker, sports betting, and daily fantasy sports become legal and licensed activities. Should this pass through, then Nebraska would become just the seventh of the United States to make online poker a legal pastime.
The Situation in Nebraska at the Moment
While Nebraska itself may have had quite the history with gambling, lawmakers within the state have seen fit to make most forms of betting opportunities inaccessible. All types of commercial casinos, sports betting, and live poker are considered illegal within Nebraska for the time being. This has made it quite difficult for avid players residing there to satisfy their gaming needs.
Some of the few gambling options in The Cornhusker State are bingo, which was legalized in 1958, keno (legal from 1985), lottery gaming (accessible since 1992), and tribal casinos (limited to Class II games). And while sports betting is considered an illegal activity, horse racing remains a legal form of gambling. The state even has four racetracks that provide live horse racing events that bettors can make wagers on.
There are currently no carve-outs in the Nebraska law for online real money gaming either although the relevant statutes have never been employed to go after those who frequent online poker sites, casinos, or sportsbooks. Thus, while these activities may be against the law on paper, this is pretty much a case of old legislation not being updated to reflect current realities, and these laws would probably fail to hold up in a court of law when applied to online gambling due to the legal principle of desuetude.
The laws of Nebraska with regard to gambling are in stark contrast to its neighboring states. Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota all provide full land-based casinos to their residents while Nebraska hasn’t embraced such opportunities. And while it’s true that daily fantasy sports already operates within the state, it's still a gray area whether or not the games are technically legal. Yet, the companies providing them claim that they are games of skill. This is something that the proposed bill would either verify or deny.
What Is in the New Bill?
The online gambling bill that was introduced by State Senator Justin Wayne (D) goes by the name of the Games of Skill Act. Through it, online poker, daily fantasy sports, and sports betting would be classified as skill-based games, which would make them completely legal within Nebraska.
The bill also goes by the designation Legislative Bill 990. As per the official Nebraska Legislature site, this bill was introduced on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, and as of the following day, it was referred to the General Affairs Committee. On Wednesday, Jan. 29, a hearing on the bill was scheduled for Feb. 10.
Within the proposed bill, it clearly states that the Legislature finds that:
Sports betting and fantasy sports require knowledge and skill. Knowledge of a sport and skill in analyzing and predicting the performance of athletes and the outcomes of sporting events is essential for a participant in sports betting or fantasy sports to be successful.
It then proceeds on to discuss poker, stating the following:
Certain poker games also require knowledge and skill. While poker does have a random component in the cards that are dealt to participants, there is more skill than chance necessary for successful participation in a game where strategic decisions influence the other participants and ultimately the outcome of the game.
Online Gambling and Stud Poker Not Specifically Mentioned
As is clear from the written words above, the bill does not make reference to online poker or sports betting in specific. However, several news outlets have reported that Sen. Wayne made the claim that the intention of LB 990 was also to include online versions of these games.
What’s more, as can be seen from the statement regarding poker, it mentions “certain games,” rather than speaking of poker as a whole. This means that some variations of poker may be cancelled out of the legislation – potentially stud poker. Further down the bill, the language states that:
Poker includes draw poker, such as five-card draw in which the participant determines whether to discard and then receive new cards from the dealer, and community card poker such as Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em in which the participant combines the cards he or she is holding along with the community cards that all participants in such game share and the participant with the highest hand at the end of the betting wins the pot…
Stud poker is not expressly mentioned in this or any other part of LB 990. Yet, some have suggested that this is simply an oversight on the part of the legislators who are currently unfamiliar with the poker industry and the various versions of the game. Therefore, the likelihood is that this will be adjusted prior to the bill actually being voted on.
How Would Online Poker Work in Nebraska?
Should the bill pass and be signed into law within Nebraska, there would be certain rules that operators would need to adhere to. Of course, no operator would be able to offer such services without first registering with applications being accepted in both electronic and paper form. That application should also come with a submission of the applicant’s fingerprints.
The bill then states what else is necessary for operators to be able to apply for permission to provide Nebraskans with online poker:
To be eligible to register to offer a game of skill in this state, an operator shall (a) be authorized to transact business in Nebraska, (b) pay a registration fee of ten thousand dollars to the department, (c) pass a national criminal history record information check pursuant to subsection (2) of this section, and (d) comply with any other applicable provisions of the Games of Skill Act.
Following on from the registration, an operator that has been accepted will also be required to pay an annual registration renewal fee which equates to 6% of their gross revenue. This will cover them for the preceding twelve-month period, and this tax is not to exceed $10,000 for a single year. All registration and subsequent renewal fees will then be submitted to the state treasurer for credit to the Games of Skill School Property Tax Reduction Fund – something that would be created if the bill is signed into law.
Support Grows for Legal Gambling in Nebraska
Even though Nebraska has little to offer at the moment with regard to gambling options, support did grow for the expansion of this industry within the state last year. Gaming proponents pushed forward with a petition to be able to put commercial casino gambling on the ballot for 2020. At the time, supporters of that petition made the argument that most bettors within Nebraska were actually crossing state borders to satisfy their gambling needs.
The states mentioned previously (Kansas, Iowa and South Dakota) were said to be receiving almost all of the custom from Nebraskans wanting to engage in gambling. Supporters of the petition stated that the government of The Cornhusker State should take action to keep the money of these people within the state. It was this same logic that Sen. Wayne utilized when putting his own gambling bill forward. In fact, he went so far as to state that about 80% of all sports bets that were placed in the state of Iowa were actually made by native Nebraskans.
Should bill LB 990 pass through legislation, then it would mean Nebraska not only becomes the seventh state with legal online poker, but it would also be one of the country’s smaller states to introduce such. It has a population of just 1.929 million people, which is only slightly more than Delaware and West Virginia (both of which have legal online poker laws in place). Yet, with Pennsylvania also introducing online poker recently, the number of people able to access such gaming options in the US is growing significantly.
Playing Poker in Nebraska in the Meantime
If you’re not really interested in waiting to see what happens with LB 990, then there’s no need to worry. You can still access legal internet poker options from within Nebraska. It just requires you to sign up to an offshore platform.
Fortunately, we know of the best and most trustworthy of these poker rooms for you to visit. They utilize different poker networks, so it’s up to you to select one that you feel works the best for you. Read our page devoted to Nebraska online poker-related info to learn more.
For a general overview of the situation as it pertains to the entire country, be sure to check out our USA online poker guide. If you want to familiarize yourself with the legalities that apply to card games played over the internet, then head over to our legal online poker page.