Online poker in Nebraska could become a reality if a new gaming bill passes through the legislature this year.
The Games of Skill Act (LB990), filed by Sen. Justin Wayne, would legalize certain games of skill in the Cornhusker State. The bill defines those games as sports betting, daily fantasy sports, and poker.
The “maybe” of online poker is due to the bill not specifically mentioning the internet at all. But the office for the bill’s sponsor said the intention is to include online gaming.
Nebraska doesn’t exactly have an overwhelming number of establishments where sports can be speculated upon or poker played.
Outside of the lottery and a handful of tribal casinos, the state only allows bingo regulated by the Charitable Gaming Division, the same organization that would oversee games of skill. Poker doesn’t make much sense in an actual retail setting, and it’d be similarly illogical to offer in-person fantasy sports.
So while the bill doesn’t use the word internet, its inclusion is implied.
Wayne’s office did caution that the proposed legislation hasn’t even had its first reading and still has plenty of opportunities to be amended. So far, it’s not yet on the schedule for consideration before the General Affairs Committee.
The bill doesn’t categorize all poker games as games of skill, though. Here’s the relevant conceptual language:
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.
The bill later defines those skill-based games as “draw poker” games like five-card draw and “community card” games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha. The language seems to exclude stud games, however, which are plainly skill-based but do not fall cleanly into either category.
There doesn’t appear to be any limitation on how many operators the state could allow for poker, DFS, or sports betting.
Similarly, there is no bad-actor clause that could preclude some operators (poker in particular) from being licensed. Any applicant can be registered provided it meets the requirements, none of which are out of the ordinary.
The cost of business is also favorable. Registrants would pay a $10,000 application fee and a 6% tax on revenue, up to a maximum of $10,000 annually.