Poker Laws in Nebraska

Important NE Notes

  • Citizens from NE can play at offshore poker sites legally
  • iGaming isn’t currently on the agenda in Nebraska
  • Commercial casinos are not yet legal in the state
  • Tribal casinos are the only options for citizens
  • Even home poker games are criminalized

Cliff Notes

  • 2021
  • 0 never
Last updated: July 14, 2018 by Savanah
Last January, a bill (LB 469) to regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS) wagering over the internet was proposed by Senator Tyson Larson. The state continues to look at legalizing commercial casinos. However, Nebraska’s Governor Pete Ricketts is against gambling expansion, in particular legalizing commercial casinos. Currently, they have tribal casinos but live poker is still illegal.

The way things have been going, Nebraska could be in the last handful of states to legalize internet poker. Many Nebraskans looking to play poker online often flock to BetOnline as a trusted and secure website.

The Nebraska Revised Statutes do not specifically hold online poker as either legal or illegal. The laws related to gambling were formulated before online poker became a big issue and have not been revised to accommodate it. However, in the law it clearly mentions that any form of gambling operation not authorized by the state is illegal.

Since operating an online poker site has not been authorized by the Nebraska legislature, it is therefore deemed illegal. Under current interpretation of law, only passed state regulated intrastate online gambling is deemed legal. Residents of Nebraska do engage in online poker legally at regulated offshore sites, just as other Americans do. There have been no known arrests [A] of Nebraska players playing poker online.

Future Outlook of Online Poker Nebraska – Estimated date of legalization: 2021-2022

The following graph tracks our expected legislation of online poker in Nebraska on a state law level. It is currently already legal on a Federal level. This graph monitors the current rise or fall of expected legalization.

Nebraska Gambling News

The subject of gambling expansion will not be added to the general election...

There has been a steady rate of growing support for gambling expansion in the...

Recent Activity
There is little likelihood of Nebraska legalizing and regulating online poker in the foreseeable future. As of yet, no bills have been tabled in the legislature with the intent of legalizing online poker, or any other form of online gambling. There is no movement outside the legislature for the legalization of online poker.

There is a lobby in Nebraska that is struggling to legalize private land casinos. The proposals of this lobby have been continuously rejected until October of 2014 where their was finally some positive movement on this matter. In all probability, no attention would be paid to online gambling legalization until private land casinos become a reality. However, legalized online poker could come to Nebraska if and when the Federal government passes laws to this effect.

Current Gambling Laws in Nebraska

Chapter 28 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes deals with gambling. Section 28-1101 [B] defines gambling. Clause (4) reads, “A person engages in gambling if he or she bets something of value upon the outcome of a future event, which outcome is determined by an element of chance, or upon the outcome of a game, contest, or election.”

Specific exclusions from gambling are also listed. They are, (a) Entering into a lawful business transaction; (b) Playing an amusement device or a coin-operated mechanical game which confers as a prize an immediate, unrecorded right of replay not exchangeable for something of value; (c) Conducting or participating in a prize contest; or (d) Conducting or participating in any bingo, lottery by the sale of pickle cards, lottery, raffle, or gift enterprise conducted in accordance with the Acts governing these activities.

Sections 28-1102 to 28-1107 prescribe penalties for various gambling offenses such as promoting gambling activities, possessing gambling records, possessing gambling devices and collecting gambling debts. Promoting gambling is grouped into various classes of misdemeanor and felony depending on the degree and frequency of the offense.

Section 29-1110 states that, “it shall be no defense to a prosecution under any provision of this article relating to gambling that the gambling is conducted outside this state and is not in violation of the laws of the jurisdiction in which it is conducted”.

History of Gambling in Nebraska

Pari-mutuel horse racing legalized by amending state constitution.

Charitable bingo legalized.

Raffles, lotteries and gifts for charitable purposes legalized.

Simulcast wagering legalized.

Nebraska residents vote for state lottery.

Nebraska Lottery sells first scratch off card.

Nebraska Lottery sells first Lotto draw ticket.

Simulcast horse racing legalized.

Nebraska residents vote against two private casinos.

Poker constitutional amendment LR 34CA introduced but postponed. Bill to allow betting on horse racing through video terminals introduced.

Poker constitutional amendment LR416CA introduced and pending.

State lawmakers continue to push on approving their first commercial casino in the state.

Legalizing commercial casinos almost made the November ballot.

Poker at Home

Since poker is not specifically excluded from illegal gambling in the Nebraska Revised Statutes, playing poker socially, including home poker games, are outlawed.

Charity Poker Tournaments

Charitable gambling is permitted in a regulated manner in Nebraska, but this does not include charity poker tournaments.

Live Poker

Poker games and tournaments that are free to enter and do not award prizes are legal because they do not constitute gambling, but those involving stakes are illegal.

Gambling Laws in Nebraska


The Nebraska State Constitution (Article III, Section 24) is the base to determine what forms of gambling are permitted or prohibited. In the early part of the twentieth century unregulated gambling was rampant in Nebraska, almost all of it in the control of the underworld. During the prohibition all forms of gambling were made illegal. From 1934, Nebraska began to legalize some gambling products one at a time. Pari-mutuel wagering, tribal land casinos, state lottery and charitable gambling are legal and regulated. It is ironic that the Omaha variant of poker that originated in Nebraska is currently illegal there.

Legal Nebraska Gambling

Brick and Mortar Casinos in Nebraska

In Nebraska, privately owned brick and mortar casinos or those owned by the state are not permitted under law. Any change to this law requires a ballot referendum and there have been attempts in this regard. In 2004, two casino measures reached the ballot stage, one through the petition process and one through the legislature. The proposals were backed by Las Vegas casinos. Coast Casino and the Venetian Casino pumped in the majority of the $7 million spent to push the proposals making it the most expensive campaign in Nebraska history. However, the proposals received stiff opposition, in main from Gambling with the Good Life, with Tom and Nancy Osborne serving as spokespeople. Nebraska voters strongly defeated both measures [C].

The lobby for brick and mortar casinos has not given up as per a report in [D]. A constitutional amendment, LR 34CA, proposed by Senator Paul Schumacher of Columbus would allow casinos. In January 2014, Senator Russ Karpisek of Wilber introduced a proposed constitutional amendment LR416CA that would permit casinos in the state if legislators and Nebraska voters approve. He has sweetened the proposal by directing gambling proceeds to some politically popular causes such as property tax relief, K-12 education, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and projects to conserve water resources.

Nebraska offers four small reservation casinos [E]. These are Iron Horse Bar & Casino, Lucky 77 Casino, Native Star Casino and Ohiya Casino. These casinos operate under the Indian Gaming Regularity Act and as per compacts arrived at with the state. They offer only Class II gaming, which includes video slot machines, video keno machines, commercial style bingo and live keno. Poker is not offered.

Lotteries in Nebraska

The referendum to allow a state lottery was passed by 63% majority in November 1992. Nebraska Lottery [F] was established in 1993 and went into operation the same year. Nebraska Lottery sells scratch cards, lottery tickets and pickle cards (also known as pull-tab cards). Nebraska Lottery also subscribes to the national Powerball and Mega Millions products. The legal age for buying lottery tickets is 19 years old, and only cash is accepted at licensed locations.

Pari-Mutuel Wagering in Nebraska

In 1934, the Nebraska State Constitution was amended to legalize pari-mutuel horse racing. The activity is under the oversight of the Nebraska State Racing Commission [G]. In 1988, simulcasting of horse races became legal. There are three horse tracks in Nebraska.  They are the City of Columbus track, Fonner Park in Grand Island, and Horseman’s Park in Omaha.  Live betting and off track betting on simulcast racing is offered at all three race tracks. Fonner Park also offers charity Keno.

In 2013, Senetor Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha introduced a bill that would allow betting on historic horse races via video terminals, among other amendments. The Nebraska Horse Racing Wagering Amendment (2014) [H] was not approved for voting in the November 2014 ballot.

Charitable Gambling in Nebraska

Charitable gambling is covered by Chapter 9 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes. The activity is regulated by the Charitable Gaming Division [I] under the Nebraska Department of Revenue. Eligible organizations have to obtain licenses before carrying out charitable gaming. The activities permitted include bingo, raffles, lotteries and gift enterprises.

Section 9-701 (1) (a) defines gift enterprise as a, “contest, game of chance, or game promotion which is conducted within the state or throughout the state and other states in connection with the sale of consumer or trade products or services solely as business promotions and in which the elements of chance and prize are present”.

Counties, cities and charities may also hold keno style games at any approved establishment as long as the proceeds go directly towards the betterment of the community. Casino nights hosting casino style games are not permitted. The legal age for participating in charitable bingo games is 18 years or more.

Author: Joseph Falchetti (twitter)
(C) Copyright, 2018

References and Citations

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