he Nebraska Racing & Gaming Commission announced last Wednesday a final draft of casino regulations is set to be released this week, on November 12. The news came a year after voters in the state approved casino gambling at Nebraska’s horse racing tracks.
Tom Sage, executive director at the commission, said the regulator has been working on the rules for the past couple of months, after it received a consultant’s report in early September, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.
The executive director further said certain comments and suggestions from both the public and the gaming industry have been incorporated into the draft regulations. “I’m very, very pleased with where we’re at with the rules,” he told the commission during last week’s meeting.
Going forward, commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules at their next scheduled meeting, set to take place on December 17, at the Nebraska Innovation Campus. Interest from industry members and the public is expected.
Should the board vote in favor of the proposed rules, they would then next have to be reviewed and signed off on by Gov. Pete Ricketts and Attorney General Doug Peterson, before being officially recognized by the Secretary of State’s Office. It would likely be early next year before tracks can apply for licenses.
All six existing horse tracks in the state have announced plans to build casinos, further reports The Independent. There also have been proposals announced for new tracks in Bellevue, Gering, Kimball, Norfolk, North Platte and York, which may seek casino licenses as well.
One of the state’s proposed casinos is a $220 million project in Lincoln, called WarHorse Casino. The development is in charge of WarHorse Gaming LLC, a division of Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development corporation of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
The WarHorse Casino is set to include more than 1,200 gaming stations, a 196-room hotel, event space, restaurants and amenities, including a spa. A temporary casino with 305 slot machine stations will open while construction, likely to take 18-24 months, takes place.
Both the Lincoln project and a second to be located in Omaha will be developed by Ho Chunk Inc in partnership with the Nebraska Horsemen. Construction of the Omaha project is expected to begin in late winter or early spring. WarHorse Omaha Casino will be developed at the existing Horsemen’s Park campus, and management anticipates full casino operations up and running in the second half of 2022.
It is expected that casinos will help revitalize the horse racing industry in the state, which Lynne McNally, Executive Vice President of Nebraska Horsemen, described as “ironic” given riverboats across the river were the ones that competed against tracks back in their heyday.
“We’re hoping with these casinos, now that they’re back on the right side of the state line in Nebraska, that we’ll be back amongst the top places to run again in the nation,” McNally said.