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Horse racing in Omaha returns on heels of casino decision

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s been more than a year since we have seen this, live horse racing returned tonight in Omaha.

Horsemen’s Park canceled live races a year ago when the pandemic was getting underway. Months later, Nebraskans voted to expand gambling and bring casinos to six horse tracks including Horsemen’s Park.

Eager fans say they waited 365 long days for the familiar feeling of piling against a fence ready to see the fastest horse cross the finish.

“Last year with not having it was kind of a bummer. But I’m so glad to have it back and get the atmosphere back,” said Sivana Witt, horse racing spectator.

Live days are the centerpiece of Nebraska Horsemen’s Park event but the Executive VP is reminding fans this year that there’s more on the menu.

“You can bet on simulcast signals around the country. We have the Budweiser Clydesdale coming again this year and for the first time ever we’re doing Corgi races,” said Lynne McNally, Executive VP of Nebraska Horsemen.

Racing runs every weekend until June 5th, but when it’s over, the company is betting on another major win.

“We’re really hoping we have good news Monday afternoon,” said Lynne.

That good news would mean WarHorse Casino could begin breaking ground in Omaha. On Monday, a final reading for LB561 is scheduled in the Nebraska Legislature.

If passed, it fulfills the wishes of the voters, establishing the gaming commission needed for casinos to operate.

“We are dead in the water if 561 does not pass,” said Lynne.

Expansive plans for this $200 million project have been in the works for years. It would bring 500 jobs and a touted economic boost.

For horse racing enthusiasts like Sivana Witt, who’ve simply enjoyed the sport all her life, a neighboring casino will enhance the experience.

“I think it’ll be great for Nebraska racing,” said Sivana.

Gov. Ricketts, however, has expressed concerns about senators adding keno to it. He warned them in March that is not what voters approved and he will veto the bill if the language isn’t changed.

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