Omaha casino development slowly progressing

WOWT 6 News Live at 6:30
Published: Nov. 5, 2021 at 3:54 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It’s a good bet if you’re hoping to hit one of the Nebraska casinos soon that you’re in for a wait.

State officials are still going through the process of establishing rules and regulations needed for those slots to start rolling.

But Nebraska’s horse racing industry is counting on the casinos to revitalize the sport of kings in the state.

“Which is a little ironic because the riverboats across the river, the ones that tried to kill us in the first place, so you know back in the heyday when Aksarben was running we were one of the top ten race tracks in the country,” said Lynne McNally, Executive Vice President of Nebraska Horsemen. “So 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.”

But officials tell 6 News that it will be a while before any construction starts out here at Horsemen’s Park.

“Well it’s taken a little longer than we thought,” said Lance Morgan, President and CEO of Ho Chunk Inc. “The state passed a law in the last session and that required some changes and we had to put in place the whole regulatory framework, now remember this is brand new.”

The Ho Chunk Inc. CEO tells 6 News that they are working to develop casinos in Omaha and Lincoln with Nebraska Horsemen. Morgan says the process takes a long time but that casino gambling is brand new to the state and it makes sense to get it right.

Construction on the Omaha facility will hopefully begin in late winter or early spring. The plan is to build a major facility where Horsemen’s Park sits - Warhorse Casino - that will be a more than $200 million facility. Morgan says gambling could even start before Warhorse is complete.

“These are giant projects, multi-hundred million dollar projects, so it doesn’t happen overnight,” said Morgan. “One of the things we’re looking at doing is finishing some aspects of it first so we can have a temporary facility so we’re hoping maybe late summer we should have some aspects of the gaming operations going in Omaha and Lincoln.”

The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission could release rules and regulations for casinos in the state next week.

As for horse racing, Nebraska’s Racing and Gaming Commission announced they have approved numerous live races for the 2022 season:

  • Fonner Park, Grand Island: 37 days of live racing from Feb. 19, 2022 - May 21, 2022.
  • Columbus Exposition and Racing, Columbus: 12 days of live racing from May 27, 2022 - June 25, 2022.
  • Horsemen’s Park, Omaha: 1 day of live racing TBD, 2022.
  • Lincoln Race Course, Lincoln: 1 day of live racing TBD, 2022.
  • South Sioux City Racing and Events Center, South Sioux City: 2 days of live racing TBD, 2022.
  • Hastings Exposition and Racing, Hastings: 1 day of live racing TBD, 2022. (Will be anywhere between April 1, 2022 - May 31, 2022).

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