As the sports betting wave ripples across the country, even the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team could add a sportsbook.
Media reports from Chicago indicate team officials have considered adding such an operation at venerable old Wrigley Field following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn a federal law that restricted sports gambling to Nevada casinos.
The family that owns the Cubs has a last name familiar to Nebraskans. And a member of that family – Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts – has long been an outspoken foe of expanding gambling in the state he now governs.
Added revenues from a sportsbook would no doubt boost the baseball team’s bottom line – the same effect it would have on this state. If sports betting is good enough for the Cubs, it should also be good enough for Nebraska.
One major difference between Illinois and Nebraska is that the Land of Lincoln recently legalized both casino gambling and sports wagering. Meanwhile, Nebraska lawmakers have yet to display any urgency on this front.
As Nebraska officials drag their feet, the state’s residents’ bets help pay taxes in Iowa and elsewhere.
A 2014 report commissioned by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission found Nebraskans accounted for $327 million of the $1.4 billion in the state’s gross casino revenues the previous year. The Sioux City Journal also reported that out-of-state bettors will soon be able to wager remotely on sports after visiting an Iowa casino’s sportsbook in person to set up an account.
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Oh, and the commission reported Iowa’s casinos paid $321 million in local and state taxes on gaming revenues in 2018. That figure predates the state’s legalization of sports betting earlier this year, with hopes to have sportsbooks open in time for football season.
As Nebraskans of various political stripes debate how to find the money needed to pay for tax reform or other causes, state leaders’ refusal to even consider expanded gambling simply astounds. A spokesman for the governor on Tuesday told the Journal Star that his position "has not changed."
Turning a blind eye to the proximity to and proliferation of sports betting won’t make it disappear. It’s no longer 1980; gambling is here to stay, and it’s affecting Nebraskans.
But the associated financial benefits won’t materialize as long as any efforts to change the status quo are smothered and a double standard persists.
If the reports from Chicago come to fruition, the Cubs would have a new revenue stream to help bolster their pursuit of another World Series title. In Nebraska, new tax money generated from this same practice could fund critical efforts, including property tax relief, investments in education, transportation improvements or Medicaid expansion.
In a way, this proposal for Wrigley Field would benefit Nebraskans -- just far fewer than if sports betting and gambling were legal in this state.