Often hounded by its popular (if a little unfair) reputation as somewhat of a “sleepy state”, Nebraska is a land of vast natural beauty and diversity, both in terms of its climate and its people. This article will provide a brief profile of the Cornhusker State (as Nebraska is commonly referred to), a history of gambling in its formative decades, and finally, an in-depth look into the current climate of live and online poker and gambling there. At the end of the piece, there will also be some educated guesses as to how the poker landscape may look in the future.
Nebraska is the only US state that is triply landlocked – meaning that, from Nebraska, you’d have to travel through at least three American states on all sides to reach the nearest ocean. Another fun fact is that it is part of a few states that are situated in the Midwest and Great Plains simultaneously.
It is the 16th largest state by land area and 37th most populous. A median household income of about $60,000 places it in the 22nd position nationally.
Nebraska shares borders with Iowa to the east, Kansas to the south, Wyoming to the west, and Colorado to the southwest. Nebraska’s relationship with its neighbors has contributed to shaping its outlook on poker and other legal gambling activities.
Importantly, Nebraska is the only American state that has a unicameral legislature. This means that unlike the other states that have a house separate from congress, it has one solitary legislative chamber. Over the years, this distinctive legislative style has also influenced the laws that have passed regarding legal gambling in the state.
The Early Days of Gambling in Nebraska
When the Nebraska Territory (at the time) joined the union in the late 19th century as the 37th American state, it was one of the hotspots of adult entertainment i.e. drinking, exotic clubs, and of course, gambling. The second most popular variation of poker, Omaha Hold’em, is a reference to Nebraska’s largest city. These gambling activities weren’t explicitly legal then, however, authorities turned such a blind eye to them that Omaha, in particular, was famous nationwide for its numerous gambling establishments.
Gambling in Nebraska in the late 19th and early 20th centuries became so profitable, even the popular mobsters and leaders of the criminal underworld decided to get in on the action. Players like the popular racketeer Tom Dennison controlled a large chunk of the Omaha gambling scene up to the early 1930s.
In 1934, pari-mutuel bets on horseracing events was legalized. Importantly, a stipulation was attached to this law, allowing the bets to only be placed right there at the venue. In 1958, the state followed it up by legalizing charity bingo games. A further addition to the list of games considered “charitable gambling games” ensured that, by 1967, raffles and lottery games also gained legal status.
Following the turn of the 20th century, strict regulations have been attached to real-money poker gambling in Nebraska. The government hasn’t budged on its opinion of the game, with the few casinos in the state barred from offering any form of poker that involves gambling real money for a reward. On that note, let’s head on to…
The Current State of Poker and Gambling in Nebraska
In a nutshell, the laws that made poker and other games illegal in Nebraska are still around. Live, real-money poker is banned in the state, and the four tribal casinos that operate there only offer bingo, live keno, and slots. This is because, under the Indian Gaming Regulatory act of 1988, Nebraska’s tribal casinos are only allowed to host Class II games.
You can, however, partake in home-based or social poker games as the current laws do not explicitly stipulate a ban on these low-stakes, private setups. Moreover, there hasn’t been any recorded case of law enforcement raiding private games in the state.
Outside of poker, other live table games like roulette are also absent in the casinos there. This has caused a large amount of potential locally-generated gambling revenue to cross into neighboring states – a trend from which that Iowa, for instance, has greatly benefitted.
Many pro-gaming legislators have used this revenue leakage as an argument to push for an expansion of Nebraska’s gaming laws to cover Class III casino games as well.
Casinos Where You can Gamble in Nebraska
As stated earlier, there are four tribal casinos currently operating in Nebraska. They are:
- Native Star Casino
- Ohiya Casino
- Lucky 77
- Iron Horse Bar & Casino
The laws that govern gambling in Nebraska say little to nothing about online gambling and poker. Therefore, it is safe to assume that due to the lack of a concrete legal backing, regulators and law enforcement won’t be prosecuting online poker players or their favorite internet-based casinos any time soon.
All of the US-facing online poker platforms also serve players from Nebraska and offer perks like big first-deposit bonuses, quick withdrawals, and full-scale poker offerings. Here are a few popular ones:
- MyBookie Poker
- Las Atlantis
- Bovada Poker
- Betnow Poker
No discussion about gambling and casinos is complete without mentioning sports betting. Sadly, conventional in-person bets on games like basketball, football, and baseball are prohibited in the state. However, alongside poker, many of the aforementioned online platforms offer excellent sports betting services. You can freely access their sportsbook sections and place bets on your favorite upcoming games and competitions.
Despite the existence of tribal casinos, lottery games, pari-mutuel horserace betting, and other gambling activities, Nebraska still lags behind in terms of gambling accessibility – with full-scale poker and other table games currently illegal. There are no proper commercial casinos in the state and, to date, all legislative efforts to that end have been short-lived. However, the current bill seeking to legalize daily fantasy sports might, in the near future, spur lawmakers towards reconsidering their stance on other games like poker and roulette.