Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signed off the state’s casino regulations on Wednesday, paving the way for licensing applications for the new market.
But prospective operators will have to wait a few more weeks before they submit those applications while the gaming regulator gets its ducks in order, reports The Lincoln Journal Star.
The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission has yet to agree on a fee structure for the applications. That won’t be resolved at least until its next meeting on June 2.
Commission director Tom Sage told the Star Wednesday that licensing will then take 30 to 60 days to process, before going to a commission agenda for final approval (or not).
Only then – early fall, or later summer if they’re lucky — will Nebraska’s prospective operators be able to begin construction work on their casino proposals.
Keeping it in Nebraska
A healthy 64.9% of Nebraska voters approved casino gaming for the state’s racetracks at the November 2020 ballot. The ballot initiative was backed by Ho-Chunk Inc., the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, and the state’s Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA).
Nebraska’s racetracks have been on a steady slide since Iowa legalized casino gambling in 1989. The ballot campaign committee appealed to Nebraskans’ state pride — and to their wallets.
Calling itself “Keep the Money in Nebraska,” it warned that an estimated $400 million hard-earned Nebraska dollars were leaking into Iowa casinos each year. The group claimed legalizing casino gambling would boost state coffers by between $60 million and $120 million per year
It will also considerably boost the coffers of Ho-Chunk Inc., and the NHBPA. The two entities have partnered up to build casinos under the brand “WarHorse” in Lincoln, Omaha, ad South Sioux City.
Other projects include a $220 million redevelopment of Lincoln Race Course, with a 196-room hotel tower, event space, plus. It’s expected to take 18-24 months to complete. But the track plans to open a temporary casino floor while the main casino is being built.
Fonner Park in Grand Island is also planning a temporary casino while it redevelops its operations, and Caesars Entertainment plans to build a brand-new Harrah’s Casino and racetrack in Columbus.
The Chickasaw Nation also wants to build a new casino and horse track in Hastings. But the tribe is currently scouting for a location.
Several other operators are eager, but their proposals won’t be considered until the Racing and Gaming Commission completes a socioeconomic impact study of new tracks and casinos, as ordered by the legislature.
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