Are You Violating Nebraska Gambling Laws?

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With the NFL Playoffs currently attracting sports fans and March Madness approaching soon, it seems like a good time to discuss Nebraska’s gambling laws. Many people were also excited to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of legalizing sports gambling across the country, which puts the issue at odds with the legality of gambling within the state. Gambling laws and statutes regulate the wagering of any kind on a game wherein the result is partially an element of chance. The laws regulating gambling vary immensely from state to state. For example, one state may allow gambling in any form while one of its neighbors has very strict regulations. It is important to understand the gambling laws in your respective state and the possible penalties you will face if charged with a gambling related crime.

Federal Gambling Laws

All states, regardless of their individual state laws, must follow the federal gambling guidelines. More specifically, federal law allows gambling on Native American reservations. The National Indian Gaming Commission was created in 1988 with the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). This act was passed to support gambling on Native American reservations as a source of economic development in tribal communities. As such, all forms of gambling are considered legal on Native American reservations from the perspective of the Federal government.

Nebraska Gambling Laws

Nebraska has fairly strict gambling laws that prohibit certain forms of gambling within the state. However, not all gambling is illegal in Nebraska, which can cause confusion about what forms of gambling are considered legal or illegal. To understand what is or isn’t illegal, it helps to start by reviewing Nebraska’s definition of gambling. According to Nebraska Revised Statute 28-1101, the state of Nebraska considers a person to be engaged 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“

In short, wagering anything of value on an event dependent on chance is gambling. The state also notes that any form of bookmaking is illegal. The statute declares that:

“Bookmaking shall mean advancing gambling activity by unlawfully accepting bets from members of the public as a business upon the outcome of future contingent events”

So, yes, it is illegal to make a wager on a sports event with your local bookie. Understanding the element of skill/chance is important when dissecting what forms of gambling are legal within the state of Nebraska.

The Requirement of Skill

An element of chance must be present for the wager to be considered gambling in Nebraska. Certain wagers or bets placed on games of skill that the user is participating in do not count as gambling. For example, a wager on a game of pool you are participating in or an entry fee for a dart tournament with cash prizes is not illegal. The outcome of these games are determined by skill, not chance, so they are legal within the state.

Legal and Illegal Forms of Gambling in Nebraska

According to Nebraska laws, any form of betting where the outcome is partially a form of chance is illegal. But this defies common occurrences in bars and social halls: with these laws how is keno not illegal? How is bingo not illegal? Both are forms of wagering on an outcome that is entirely determined by chance. The Nebraska Department of Revenue, Charitable Gaming Department is responsible for administering legal forms of gambling within the state, and Nebraska gambling laws do make place for these exceptions. In fact, there are many exceptions to Nebraska gambling laws. Listed below are different forms of betting and their respective designation:

Casino Gambling Legal only on Native American Reservations
Poker Illegal
Horse Racing Legal
Dog Racing Illegal
Lottery Legal
Charitable Gaming Legal
Social Gambling Legal
Lottery Games (Keno, Pickle Cards, etc) Legal in locations licensed by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission
Betting on games of skill (i.e. pool, darts, etc) Legal
Poker Tournaments Illegal (unless a charitable event sanctioned by the NDR, Charitable Gaming department)
Sports Betting Illegal
Online Gambling Not Specified

Penalties for Gambling

The penalties for illegal gambling can vary from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the exact criminal charges. There are many different criminal charges related to gambling, but the four most prominent are:

  • Promoting Gambling in the first degree
  • Promoting Gambling in the second degree
  • Promoting Gambling in the third degree
  • Possession of a gambling device
  • Promoting Gambling in the First Degree

According to Nebraska Revised Statute 28-1102, promoting gambling in the first degree occurs when an individual receives or accepts bets totaling $1,500 or more in any one day. If you are charged with promoting gambling in the first degree, you will be facing a Class I misdemeanor for the first offense (up to 1 year imprisonment and/or fines of up to $1,000), a Class IV felony for the second offense (up to two years imprisonment and/or fines of up to $10,000), and a Class III felony for the third and all subsequent offenses (up to four years imprisonment and/or fines of up to $25,000).

Promoting Gambling in the Second Degree

According to Nebraska Revised Statute 28-1103, promoting gambling in the second degree occurs when an individual receives or accepts bets totaling less than $1,500 in any one day or bets something of $500 or more in value with one or more persons in any one day. If you are charged with promoting gambling in the second degree, you will be facing a Class II misdemeanor which is punishable by up to six months imprisonment and/or fines of up to $1,000.

Promoting Gambling in the Third Degree

According to Nebraska Revised Statute 28-1104, promoting gambling in the third degree occurs when an individual bets something of $500 or less in value with one or more persons in any one day. If you are charged with promoting gambling in the third degree, you will be facing a Class IV misdemeanor which is punishable by fines of up to $500.

Possession of a Gambling Device

According to Nebraska Revised Statute 28-1107, possession of a gambling device occurs when an individual knowingly manufactures, sells, transports, places, possesses, or conducts or negotiates any transaction of any gambling device that shall be used for unlawful gambling activity. There are multiple exceptions to this statute, including:

  • Coin-operated mechanical gaming device
  • Computer gaming device
  • Electronic gaming device
  • Video gaming device

If you are charged with possession of a gambling device, you will be facing a Class II misdemeanor which is punishable by up to six months imprisonment and/or fines of up to $1,000.

Understanding Nebraska Gaming Laws

The state of Nebraska has strict, yet often confusing regulations regarding what is and what isn’t considered legal gambling in the state. It is important that you understand these laws if you are thinking of hosting any sort of event where gambling is present. Gambling laws are continually changing, and it may be in your best interest to contact the Nebraska Department of Revenue, Charitable Gaming department if you have any questions. As always, gamble responsibly.

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