Senators OK sports betting, but not on Husker home games

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Sports fans in Nebraska may soon be able to bet legally on nearly all collegiate and professional events, but not on the Huskers when they play at home.

Lawmakers tweaked a gambling regulation bill on Thursday that would allow sports betting, excluding the home games of instate teams in an effort to pick up enough supportive votes to pass it. The new measure would apply to schools including the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Creighton University Bluejays.

Sen. Steve Lathrop, of Omaha, said the compromise was part of legislative “sausage making” that needed to be done to ensure the broader bill passes. The bill is critical because it puts in place regulations for casinos, which are slated to open after voters legalized the industry in 2020.

“You may not like it, but in the end, we need to get (the bill) across the finish line,” Lathrop said.

Some lawmakers have said they aren’t comfortable with allowing bets on collegiate teams, arguing that it could put undue pressure on Nebraska’s student athletes. Other lawmakers said fans are already betting on collegiate teams, and argued that the change makes no sense.

“We can bet on the Iowa Hawkeyes, but we can’t bet on the Huskers” under the changed bill, said Sen. Tom Brandt, of Plymouth.

Sen. Adam Morfeld, of Lincoln, said the bill will only encourage Nebraskans to place their Husker bets in Iowa, where such wagering is legal.

“We’re pretending like this isn’t occurring,” he said, calling the measure “completely illogical” and “puritanical nonsense.”

The new measure would also require keno played at casinos to operate under the same rules as other venues where it’s already offered. Lawmakers agreed to the change to address the concerns of keno parlors that were worried about losing business and cities that get tax revenue from keno to pay for community projects.

The amendment was added on a 31-4 vote. Lawmakers must vote on the bill once more before it goes to Gov. Pete Ricketts, who fervently opposed the casino ballot measure but said he’d respect the will of voters.

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