When one is prompted for word association with “Nebraska”, NFLbets would guess that the reply “exciting” is rarely elicited; “Bruce Springsteen album” maybe, but almost never “excitement.” Dig into history recent and not-so-recent, respectively, and you’ll learn that Omaha was one quite the hotbed for serious betting action, while Nebraska has played host for a pro team here and there – plus, there are those Cornhuskers…
Betting in Nebraska
Since the city’s foundation in 1854, Omaha was almost immediately known as a locus point for vice: Steady trade in gambling, alcohol and prostitution. Omaha’s convenient location on the Missouri River and self-proclaimed status as a “gateway to the West” brought many a pioneering spirit – and quite a few hustler types – through the city throughout the 19th century.
And Omaha adapted nicely to a rapidly-changing economy based on a rapidly changing America. The betting business stayed monolithic in Omaha when the railroads came and later when stockyards became the top industry in the burg. A guy named Tom Dennison arrived in 1893 and by 1900, he’d established himself as both “King of Poker” in the town and a kingmaker in city and state politics. Thanks to his influence, Dennison controlled the illegal activity in Omaha in four decades before his death in 1934.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the same year saw Nebraska lawmakers legalize pari-mutuel betting at the state’s horse racetracks. The recent wave of prohibition-style attitudes and general backlash against organized crime-run betting games, all other forms of gambling were clamped down upon in Omaha and elsewhere. Only in 1958 was charity bingo legalized, and lottery-style raffles were allowed in ’67.
While Nebraska legislators could not shield the state from the legal implications of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) passed in 1988, they have kept installation of casino gaming in Nebraska to a minimum. In 1992, two Native American-operated bingo halls began offering slot machine games, but expansion of both venues or to the industry in general is heavily resisted by certain special-interest groups.
Indeed, when a full-scale casino was proposed for the Omaha area in the 1990s, anti-gambling interests quickly formed the group Gambling With the Good Life (GWGL) and brought in University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football coach Tom Osborne to act as chairman. The group managed to kill all such attempts at expansion of gaming in Nebraska until 2011, when the third Native American-operated casino opened for business.
Interestingly, however, daily fantasy football continued smoothly (legally speaking) in Nebraska since the Fan Kings of the world started hooking suckers/players. All such games are perfectly free to play in Nebraska.
Football in Nebraska
Unfortunately for the state’s (well, Omaha’s, really) prospects for hosting a proper professional football team steadily dimmed throughout the century as Nebraska’s population growth waned, particularly in the booming cities of the increasingly-reachable Mountain West and Pacific West. Even in the 1920s when the proto-NFL was throwing franchises at every decent-sized city in the Midwest to see which would stick, Omaha and Nebraska were passed up for consideration in favor of major metropolitan areas like Kenosha, Duluth and Muncie.
In the 1960s, cities west of the Mississippi – cities such as Kansas City, Dallas and Denver – were no longer thought too small or too inconvenient of distance, but it was too late for Omaha to present itself as a viable market. In 1960, the U.S. census placed Omaha just 42nd on the list of most populous states, barely ahead of up-and-coming cities Honolulu and Miami. For comparison’s sake, Omaha had been 21st-biggest in the 1890 census; at that time, Omaha was the second-largest western city behind only San Francisco.
On the other hand, the Arena League and subsequent mini-fads for indoor football associations, Nebraska has finally been realized as a swell home venue for football. Of note: an unwritten prerequisite for basing a team in Nebraska is to choose a truly godawful team name. Both of the aforementioned aspects are embodied in the Indoor Football League’s Nebraska Danger (bleagh), whose fans bagged the IFL’s Best Fans award during the team’s first two seasons of 2011 and ’12. In the team’s seven seasons to date, the Danger have appeared in three league championship games but are 0-3.
Even more brutally/unintentionally hilariously named is the big city’s now-Champions Indoor Football League team, the Omaha Beef. (Gotta say, pictures of the Omaha cheerleaders with BEEF across the chest are amazing.) The, ahem, Beef are a very portrait of the instability and volatility of indoor football: Since its inaugural season of 2000, this team has played in *six* different associations, four of which are now defunct including the Omaha-based United Indoor Football (R.I.P. 2005-2008).
Finally, the Omaha Heart (what is this, Ann Wilson’s team?) are ready for another Legends Football League season in 2018. Don’t recognize the “Legends Football League”? Well, it used to be called the “Lingerie Football League”…
But seriously, folks, when you’re talking Nebraska football, it begins and ends with the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. This is the team that keeps Nebraska on the U.S. sports map, that enthralls every sports fan in the state on Saturday, that generates local heroes of lore and legend, that has produced NFL badasses like Ndamukong Suh and Irving Fryar and Mick Tingelhoff. Huskers.
The University of Nebraska first fielded a team in 1899 and … woof, where can NFLbets go from there…? Going into the 2018, the Cornhuskers have 889 all-time wins and are no. 5 all-time in total wins. (Note, too, that nos. 3, 10 and 11 on this list are occupied by Yale, Harvard and Penn, respectively: Ivy League teams who haven’t regularly played top-level competition in decades.)
In their 118 seasons of play, Nebraska has bagged *46* conference titles and five national championships (in 1970, ’71, ’94, ’95 and ’97). The 1970 team ultimately included 20 players who were drafted into the NFL; the 1995 side produced 27 NFLers including Ahman Green. In fact, the years 1962-1997 may be summarized as one of the most extended runs of domination in football at any level. With Bob Deveaney and then Tom Osborne as head coach, the Cornhuskers went a ridiculous 356-69-5, for a winning percentage of .828 over *35 freakin’ years*.
Now that, friends, is a sports dynasty.
Betting on football in Nebraska
Nebraska state law provides for a lottery (which was established in 1993); also founded at that time were local municipal lotteries. Beyond this, pari-mutuel betting is legal at Nebraska horse tracks, legal casino gambling may be found at the state’s three Native American-run casinos, and all daily fantasy football and sports offerings are legal to enjoy within the state.
While the pro-gambling forces attempt to expand betting in Nebraska in any number of ways, the anti-expansionist band remains strong enough to hold off such challenges. As long as GWGL and its ilk continue their efforts to stop expansion of online gaming, any change to Nebraska gambling laws is highly unlikely. Further hampering matters is the lack of – you guessed it – a major market in Nebraska. Nebraska may not decriminalize betting on football any time soon, and the big sports leagues might not even care all that much…