Omaha, Lincoln awarded provisional gaming licenses
Thursday’s action allows both locations to seek financing for construction
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Horse tracks in Omaha and Lincoln took a big step forward on Thursday.
Nebraska voters approved expanded gambling a year and a half ago; Thursday, Omaha and Lincoln were given licenses to move ahead.
All sorts of exchanges of “Congratulations!” took place in the afternoon at Horseman’s Park. They even started a beer special and passed out cake for the customers to join the celebration.
“We’ve been waiting for this day since Aksarben closed,” said Lynne McNally with Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. “We want to bring back the glory days of racing to our state, and this is a sign and important step for us.”
The provisional license for the Warhorse locations in Omaha — currently Horseman’s Park — and in Lincoln allow the company to start getting $500 million in financing, and to start ordering slot machines and other games. After all, the supply chain for the chips is moving slowly.
“I want to make it very clear to everyone — this does not mean you’re going to see slot machines at Horsemen’s Park or Lincoln race course tomorrow,” said Tom Sage from the Nebraska Racing Commission.
What it does mean is that if they get their permanent license in the coming weeks, the Lincoln facility — because it’s a newer building — may have some machines running this fall. Omaha will get theirs in the spring while 18 months of construction gets underway for the full operation.
“Overnight, we’re saving the horse racing industry,” said Lance Morgan, CEO and president of Ho-Chunk Inc. “We’re creating a whole new industry with thousands of jobs, and we’re doing it without one penny of incentive from the state. And overnight, we’ll become one of the largest taxpayers in the state of Nebraska. And we’re not taking more; we’re just redistributing from the other states around us and back to us in Nebraska.”
Right now, many Nebraskans gamble in Council Bluffs. Morgan, joking that he should run for office in Council Bluffs now, said he believes they will come to the Omaha casino once it’s built.
The key to the provisional license is that the two Nebraska locations can now seek financing to help construction get started.
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