Caesars To Give Columbus Racetrack A Multi-Million Dollar Casino Makeover

Written By Russ Mitchell on July 8, 2021 - Last Updated on July 27, 2021
harrahs racino nebraska

Now there are six multi-million dollar casinos are coming to Nebraska.

On July 2, Columbus Exposition and Racing (CER) announced Caesars Entertainment as the future casino operator at its Ag Park racetrack.

Columbus is 90 miles west of Omaha and 75 miles northwest of Lincoln.

CER managing partner Tom Jackson said Caesars would operate the proposed $75 million project as a Harrah’s Casino:

“As we work to create a new entertainment destination for the Midwest, this partnership will be an important economic driver and job creator for Columbus and the surrounding communities.

“It also further reinforces our commitment to the hardworking people involved in the Nebraska horse racing industry. We look forward to providing new gaming and entertainment experiences to our valued customers.”

Plans for Harrah’s call for a 40,000-square-foot casino and sportsbook in Columbus. The racetrack-casino, aka “racino,” will include 400 slot machines, 20 table games, a restaurant and retail space.

According to the press release, the project will be complete by the end of 2022.

Horse racing upgrades for Ag Park, too

CER and Caesars Entertainment plan to upgrade the one-mile horse racing surface as well. The 2021 racing season ended July 3 at Ag Park.

Joe Morris, the senior vice president of racing at Caesars, said:

“Beyond the onset of casino gaming in Nebraska, we are thrilled with the opportunity to transform horse racing in Columbus. The opportunity to build a new, first-class track at our property illustrates our commitment to the racing industry.”

Expansion of gaming in Nebraska

Columbus has a 75-year history of horse racing, including betting at the tracks. The Nebraska casino industry is new on the scene.

Lawmakers had to move on gaming policies after nearly 65% of voters approved three constitutional changes on Nov. 3, 2020, which allowed casino games at Nebraska’s six racetracks.

Bettors in Nebraska will have to visit the facilities to wager on sporting events. On the other hand, customers in Iowa can register and bet on sports from anywhere in the Hawkeye State.

Columbus racino project joins WarHorse, Elite efforts

Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska tapped WarHorse Gaming to develop casino additions in Omaha and Lincoln.

  • Construction on the $220 million WarHorse Lincoln casino and racetrack expansion will likely begin this summer at Lincoln Race Course.
  • Plans for the $220 million WarHorse Omaha racino will center around a destination-retail sportsbook at the Horsemen’s Park racecourse in an older section of the city. WarHorse Omaha hopes to be operational by the winter of 2022-23.

The gaming company has plans in Hastings and South Sioux City, too.

WarHorse spokesman Drew Niehaus recently said:

“Nebraska spoke loud and clear. This is what they want. This is what they want to do.”

In addition, Iowa-based Elite Casino Resorts will develop Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park.

Photo by Seth Wenig / AP
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Russ Mitchell

Russ Mitchell has been covering news and sports in northwest Iowa since 1997, including 11 years as managing editor for one of the most acclaimed community newspapers in the state. He looks forward to keeping readers up to date on the growing sportsbook industry in Iowa.

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