So the U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the lane for states to legalize betting on basketball.
And on baseball and on football and on Tiger Woods winning one more major.
New Jersey — the state that brought the case — is just weeks from opening betting windows. More than a dozen other states plan to follow its lead over the next two years — another 18 more within five.
What about Nebraska? What are the odds a Husker fan on her way to Memorial Stadium will be able to make a pit stop to play the spread on the Big Red vs. the Buckeyes anytime soon? Or anytime?
Not good, if Gov. Pete Ricketts has a say.
“Sports betting is illegal in Nebraska and we have no plans to change that,” Ricketts said at a Monday news conference honoring high-scoring ACT students.
The governor reiterated his stand against expanded gambling from a fiscal standpoint. “For every dollar in tax revenue, you spend three in social services” to combat the effects of gambling.
State Sen. Tyson Larson questioned those numbers and added: “I agree with the governor on 98 percent of the issues, but on this one he is wrong.”
The O’Neill senator hailed the 6-3 Supreme Court decision — “a great decision, the right decision” — repealing the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act and said Nebraska would be remiss in not taking advantage of the opportunity for a legal avenue for sports gambling and the revenue it could bring to the state.
“This is one way of lowering property taxes,” Larson said. “We don’t need to be taking the moral high ground.”
Sports betting is occurring in Nebraska already, said Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for a leading gaming and hospitality firm.
“But it’s illegal and it’s unregulated — this (decision) allows states to regulate it properly to capture that illegal market.”
A study conducted by Global Market Advisors — Bussmann’s firm — estimates Nebraska could see as much as $47 million in revenue if sports gambling were legalized here.
One significant hurdle to seeing that money: The state’s constitutional amendment prohibiting gambling. The prohibition has been whittled away over the years by way of petition drive or legislative action to place specific forms of gambling on the ballot.
“If we were smart, we’d pay $60,000 to call a special session and put it on the ballot,” said Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus. “There is already considerable bookmaking in the state, unregulated, untaxed, all cash, under the table.”
Realistically: “If you were to place a bet on it, we won’t do anything to make it happen.”
The NCAA is firm in its opposition.
Larson’s answer: “Maybe they should actually pay their players if they’re making millions on their athletic ability.”
Gambling by young people is Deb Hammond’s concern. The director of Choices, a Lincoln gambling-treatment center, sees the impact of compulsive gambling starting in high school, where access to gaming and betting is as close as a mobile phone.
“We need to minimize our loss here. This is something that is now on a national level. What needs to happen if there’s expansion, is awareness, prevention and a treatment component.”
Back in Las Vegas, Bussmann had followed the Supreme Court case closely, sitting in on oral arguments in December.
In his previous professional life, the former Lincoln resident — a Lincoln Southeast and University of Nebraska-Lincoln grad — spent eight years working in the Husker Athletic Department, two of those under Tom Osborne, an unwavering opponent of gambling, sports or otherwise.
He later advised the former football coach during his congressional campaign.
“Tom’s never going to be convinced,” Bussmann said. “We respectfully disagree.”