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Nebraska Online Poker Laws

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Nebraska Online Poker Laws
Last Updated January 6, 2021

What do online poker sites have to offer players in Nebraska?  The same thing it has to offer poker players from around the world: the ability to play a ton of different games against a ton of different opponents at nearly any time of day.

This page will provide some basics of playing online poker from Nebraska and highlight aspects of the state’s laws that could apply to live and online poker. It is important to know the basics before addressing potential changes and predictions for the future.

Nebraska gambling law is a dense thing, and all of it was written in an era that predates the Internet.  Drawing specific conclusions about whether playing poker online for real money violates the letter (or the spirit) of Nebraska law is a job for a lawyer, and this article is not a substitute for that kind of advice.

Nebraska Gambling & Poker Laws Summarized

State Code Section(s)9; 28.1102-1113
DefinitionsEngaging 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.

Advancing gambling activity: If, acting other than as a player, he or she engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity. Conduct of this nature includes, but shall not be limited to, conduct directed toward the creation or establishment of the particular game, contest, scheme, device, or activity involved; or the acquisition or maintenance of premises, paraphernalia, equipment, or apparatus therefor.

Profiting from gambling activity: If, other than as a player, he or she accepts or receives money or other property pursuant to an agreement or understanding with any person whereby he or she participates or is to participate in the proceeds of gambling activity.

Online Poker/GamblingNo efforts to discuss any type of online poker or gaming legislation have been noted.
Live PokerThere are no poker rooms in Nebraska, not even in the Native American casinos or at race tracks.
CasinosThere are only a handful of casinos in Nebraska, all of which are located on tribal lands and limited to offering gaming machines and bingo, as no table games are allowed.
Sports BettingLawmakers have yet to propose a sports betting bill and seem unlikely to do so.
DFSAn attempt to debate a law that would have legalized paid-entry fantasy sports did not make it to the floor for a vote in 2018.
Other Forms of GamblingHorse racing and pari-mutuel betting, lottery, bingo and raffles.

Is Online Poker in Nebraska Legal?

We don’t just choose our top poker sites for Nebraska players by random draw.  We’re evaluating the legal status of the site – does it hold a proper license to operate?  We also look at promotions – how generous are the bonuses and rewards?  Finally, we consider the software – is it stable?  Secure?  Only the rooms that can answer all three questions to our satisfaction make our list of the best Nebraska online poker sites:

Poker Sites Open to Players From Your State
Bovada$500 Bonus3-4 Day PayoutsAccepts Visa, Bitcoin, Wires
Ignition$2000 Bonus3-4 Day PayoutsAccepts Visa, Bitcoin, Wires

All of the poker rooms that are open to the United States also accept players from Nebraska.  That means getting online to play poker for real money is a pretty simple affair for Nebraskans.  Creating an account requires little more than an email address, and depositing with a credit card is an identical process to buying an ebook or app.  Add it all up, and you’ll probably spend under five minutes on the whole endeavor – certainly far less time than it would take you to even get your chips at a live poker room.

Latest Poker Updates From Nebraska

Most online poker experts and analysts did not predict that Nebraska would consider online poker in the near future, considering live poker is not even permitted under its current laws. They could not have predicted the efforts that were to come.

Nebraska State Senator Justin Wayne is relatively new to the legislature, having only been elected in 2016. But he knows that his state needs additional revenue streams. He is educated about gambling enough to know that poker is a game of skill, and legalized games of skill could benefit his state’s coffers.

In mid-January 2020, Wayne introduced LB.971, a legislative bill called the Games of Skill Act. The bill starts by defining poker, sports betting, and fantasy sports contests, also known as DFS (daily fantasy sports). It also explains why these forms of gambling require skill to influence the outcomes, which should be sufficient to reclassify them as games of skill rather than ones of chance.

By deeming poker, sports betting, and fantasy sports as games of skill, the bill would then legalize them. Operators could register with the state and apply to offer these games for a $10K application fee and annual renewal fees. The bill also called for the establishment of a new division in the Department of Revenue to handle the proceeds from the games.

As it stands, Nebraska has only four establishments labeled as casinos, all on tribal lands and all offering bingo and slot machines. There are two operated by the Winnebago Tribe, one by the Santee Sioux Tribe, and another by the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. There are also several keno parlors located around the state. All of these establishments would likely be able to offer poker, sports betting, and sponsor fantasy sports contests if they decided to do so.

At this point, the bill is somewhat vague about whether the state would operate online poker and sports betting or restrict operators to land-based operations only. Details are likely to emerge in committee hearings, the first one already set for mid-February. It is unclear if the bill has a road to passage, but Wayne intends to educate fellow lawmakers and work toward bringing games of skill into the legal realm in Nebraska.

Is It Legal to Gamble in Nebraska?

What we’ve done below is highlighted some of the most important parts of the law, along with some of the key points necessary to accurately read the law:

Nebraska law requires only a bet involving “something of value” on an event or game with an “element of chance” for an activity to qualify as gambling (Section 28-1101).

Gambling is illegal by default under Nebraska law.

Nebraska law takes a (somewhat unique) tiered approach to gambling violations.  There are three degrees of “promoting gambling” that can apply both to players and those on the business side of the illegal gambling activity.

Promoting gambling in the third degree takes place when a player bets under $300 in a day in the course of illegal gambling.  A second degree charge kicks in for players who bet over $300 and for operators who take in less than $1000 a day.  The most severe charge (a felony) is reserved for operators who take in over $1000 in a single day (Sections 28-1102 through 28-1104).

Interesting, the law stipulates that individuals must “knowingly” participate in illegal games as a player to trigger charges (Section 28-1104).  This suggests that you must be (or, more likely, should reasonably be) aware that the activity you’re involved in is illegal in order for it to be illegal for you to participate in.

Additional charges are possible for operators, including charges related to possession of gambling devices and the collection of gambling debts.

There is no specific mention of Internet-based gambling in Nebraska law.

To learn more about Nebraska law as it pertains to gambling, online poker and other gaming-related subjects, refer to the official version of the Nebraska Revised Statutes here.

Is Nebraska Planning to Regulate Online Poker?

State Senator Justin Wayne is the first in the Nebraska legislature to address poker in general in many years, much less consider online poker as an option. His first goal seems to be to urge his fellow lawmakers to recognize that poker, sports betting, and DFS as games of skill. Depending upon the level of difficulty involved in that task, he may pursue online options.

If Wayne continues to educate other legislators about the games and is able to legalize land-based poker rooms, he may be successful in regulating online poker in the future as well.

Nebraska may not regulate online poker in 2021, but the state is now a possibility for the first time.

Nebraska Facts

“Gambling” might not be the first word that springs to mind when you think of Nebraska, but the state was actually something of a mecca for gamblers during much of the 19th and 20th century.  The majority of that gambling took place in Omaha, which was by some accounts the “Sin City” of its day, hosting all manner of casino games, betting houses and other ways of gambling since lost to time.  One estimate puts Omaha at the very top of the gambling per capita list for the first half of the 1900s.

Changing attitudes toward gambling (and the law) eventually turned back the tide to some degree, and you’ll no longer find the widespread casino activity that once defined Omaha, but Nebraska continues to offer residents and visitors a healthy supply of regulated gambling activities.

What are the Regulated Gambling Options in Nebraska?

What’s on offer in Nebraska when it comes to regulated gaming?  You can choose from the state-backed lottery, pari-mutuel wagering at racetracks and approved facilities, tribal gambling spots offering Class II and Class III options and a variety of charitable gambling activity.

The three tribes that operate small casinos are all located in the northeastern part of the state.

  • Ohiya Casino in Niobrara (operated by Santee Sioux Tribe)
  • Lucky 77 Casino in Walthill (operated by Omaha Tribe of Nebraska)
  • Iron Horse Bar & Casino in Emerson (operated by Winnebago Tribe)
  • Native Star Casino in Winnebago (operated by Winnebago Tribe)

These establishments are allowed to offer bingo and slot machines, though the latter are referred to as video bingo and spinning reels machines.

There are several keno parlors around the state, and those are restricted to keno only.

The Nebraska State Racing Commission regulates horse racing and pari-mutuel betting at six tracks around the state.

  • Fonner Park in Grand Island
  • Lincoln Race Course in Lincoln
  • Horsemen’s Park in Omaha
  • Columbus Exposition & Racing in Columbus
  • Fairplay Park in Hastings
  • South Sioux City in Winnebago

Nebraska’s Place in Poker History

While Nebraska had a rich tradition of poker and gambling, the state has produced fewer household poker names than you might expect.  In fact, the most prominent link between Nebraska and poker comes not in the form of a famous player at all, but in the form of a popular poker variant that one assumes must have taken its moniker from Nebraska’s largest city: Omaha hold’em (generally referred to simply as “Omaha”).

Famous Nebraska Poker Players

There are few very well-known poker players from Nebraska, other than a few that have earned more than $1 million in live tournament earnings. Players who live in Nebraska must travel to neighboring states like Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado.

Daniel Sindelar is the top-ranked player in Nebraska for live tournament earnings, according to the Hendon Mob Database. He has been playing for well over a decade and plays in tournaments around the country but mainly in the Midwest US and in Las Vegas. His biggest score happened in 2014 when he finished seventh in the World Series of Poker Main Event for more than $1.2 million.

As of 2021, these were the top players in the category of Nebraska natives and their lifetime live tournament earnings:

1. Daniel Sindelar ($2.2 million)
2. Ryan Phan ($1.5 million)
3. Bob Slezak ($1.3 million)
4. Scott Buller ($1.2 million)
5. Jeff Banghart ($1.1 million)
6. Drazen Ilich ($879K)
7. Eric Rodawig ($878K)
8. Phil Mader ($791K)
9. Jeff Bryan ($753K)
10. John Reiss ($714K)

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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