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State Sen. Tyson Larson

State Sen. Tyson Larson

Journal Star file photo

Nebraska senators spent three hours debating a bill Tuesday and Wednesday that would designate how online fantasy contest operators are to be licensed and regulated in Nebraska.

It would apply to those contests for which participants pay to play and can win points, prizes and money. It prohibits fantasy contests based on college, high school or youth athletics. 

With the bill (LB469), operators of the fantasy games would have to pay a $10,000 registration fee. There is also an annual registration renewal fee of 6 percent of the operator's gross revenue for the preceeding 12 months, not to exceed $10,000.

Violators face a civil penalty of not more than $1,000 for each violation, not to exceed $5,000.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Tyson Larson of O'Neill, who said he knew some believe it would expand gaming in Nebraska.

"I'd like to make my colleagues just aware that fantasy sports happen in Nebraska right now," he said. "These operators are currently operating. What this is doing is adding rules and regulations."

About 300,000 people are reportedly playing the games in Nebraska, on such websites as FanDuel and DraftKings. 

During debate, a number of senators did make the claim that the fantasy games bill would expand gambling in the state. Larson calls them games of skill, rather than luck, but says reasonable regulations are needed to protect consumers nonetheless. 

Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha led a filibuster against the bill. 

Lincoln Sen. Suzanne Geist said she was one who believed the bill would legalize expanded gambling. 

"I don't believe this would protect our consumers. ... This encourages and codifies a deceptive gambling scheme. I believe it takes advantage of our citizens and it creates a foothold for online gambling," Geist said. 

Omaha Sen. Bob Krist said the bill would bring in revenue for the state, ensure there are no bad actors who are gouging people and give support for therapies for people who are problem gamblers. 

"Open your eyes to the fact that it's already going on. If you want to regulate the activity and if you want to bring revenue because of it and you want to keep it from growing in any way, if you want to keep it from continuing to expand, then do something about it," Krist said. 

The bill will come back for more debate only if Larson can assure Speaker Jim Scheer he has the 33 votes to break the filibuster and force a vote on it. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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