Nebraska: Ogallala City approves 0M Elite casino project in event of new licenses allowance

Nebraska: Ogallala City approves $100M Elite casino project in event of new licenses allowance

The Ogallala City Council and Keith County Board of Commissioners approved this week plans for a $100 million project that would be built by the same gaming company that’s building a casino at Fonner Park in Grand Island. The move was done in anticipation of a potential allowance of further casinos at new horse racing tracks.

Elite Casino Resorts stated that the proposed project, Lake Mac Casino Resort & Racetrack, would feature a casino with 650 slot machines, 20 table games, six poker tables, a sportsbook, and a show lounge that would provide local and regional entertainment. It would also include a racetrack, a 120-room hotel, 10,000 square feet of convention and event space, an RV park and a high-end truck stop.

The proposed project is similar in size and scope to one Elite plans to build at the Grand Island track, where the resort will include a 37,000-square-foot casino floor with 650 slot machines and 20 table games, plus a sportsbook. 

“We are excited about this partnership. This project will be a catalyst to help additional economic development in our community,” Jeremy Smith, president of local nonprofit LMRC Inc., said in a news release, as reported by Lincoln Journal Star. “We feel we have the full package with our location, the quality of the project to be developed, and the experience in gaming and racetracks with our partners.” These include both Elite and Fonner Park, as well as casino developer Kehl Management.

Rendering of the Grand Island Casino Resort in Fonner Park, Nebraska.

The state regulator began taking applications this month after Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed off rules to allow casino gambling in the Cornhusker State. The Racing Commission has already granted WarHorse Gaming -an entity formed by Ho-Chunk Inc. and the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association- provisional licenses to open casinos in the state’s two largest cities: Omaha and Lincoln. Meanwhile, Elite filed for a gaming license on June 28, which if approved would pave the way for a temporary casino at the site by the end of this year.

Voters in 2020 approved an initiative that allows casino gambling only at authorized horse racing tracks, and the Legislature earlier this year passed a bill that puts a moratorium on developing casinos outside of the six existing tracks until a market study can be performed, something that must happen no later than Jan. 1, 2025.

In addition to Ogallala, five communities – Bellevue, York, Norfolk, North Platte and Gering – have expressed interest in building new racetracks with casinos. Operators of the existing tracks, including Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak, have questioned whether the state can support more than six casinos.