Not Off-And-Running Yet: Nebraska Casinos Wait For Word From The State

Written By Adam Hensley on February 8, 2022 - Last Updated on July 22, 2022
Nebraska casinos update

The concept of Nebraska casinos at horseracing tracks isn’t out of the gates just yet. It’s just a matter of time before the industry is off and running, however.

In December, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission voted unanimously to approve rules for casinos at licensed horse tracks across the state.

So, what’s next?

Attorney General Doug Peterson and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts must sign off on those rules before they head to Secretary of State Bob Evnen. Once those rules cross all hurdles, casinos will be legal at racetracks in Nebraska.

Ricketts can only sign off casino rules. The Republican gambling opponent can’t stop expansion since voters signaled their support for gaming through an amendment to the Nebraska Constitution in November 2020.

Where are Nebraska casinos possible?

As of today, six racetracks in Nebraska would be allowed to become “racinos” under the new rules:

  • Horsemen’s Atokad Downs (located at 15244 Atokad Drive, South Sioux City)
  • Columbus Horse Races (822 15th St., Columbus)
  • Hastings FairPlay Park (1501 S. Burlington Ave., Hastings)
  • Fonner Park (700 E. Stolley Park Road, Grand Island)
  • Horsemen’s Park (6303 Q St., Omaha)
  • Lincoln Race Course (7055 S. First St., Lincoln)

As of now, there are no concrete plans for new casinos in Nebraska outside of the six racetrack expansions.

However, Nebraska could see seven more location proposals for new casinos:

  • Bellevue
  • Gering
  • Kimball
  • Norfolk
  • North Platte
  • Ogallala
  • York

Legislative Bill 876 would regulate the number of casinos in Nebraska. Under the current structure of the bill, not all of those seven locations would be approved; the bill’s current language states that new casinos must be at least 50 miles from an existing race track.

When will casinos be open for business?

Construction time for the casino additions varies by site.

  • Developers haven’t set dates for Horsemen’s Atokad Downs, Hastings FairPlay Park or Fonner Park.
  • Lincoln Race Course eyes a fall 2022 completion date.
  • Columbus Horse Races wants its casino completed by the end of 2022.
  • Horsemen’s Park set its construction goal for winter 2022-23.

Voters approved “games of chance” with 65% support, so on-site sportsbooks are a likely addition once casino construction is done at Nebraska’s six racetracks.

In Iowa, adults 21 and older can sign up for a sportsbook and bet inside of state lines. An Omaha resident, for example, can cross the Missouri River into Iowa to place a legal bet.

Photo by Nati Harnik / AP
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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