Lincoln Casino Plans Could Give Nebraska Slot Machine Betting A Head Start

Posted By Russ Mitchell on June 21, 2021

It takes time to construct a $220 million casino, but gaming officials in Lincoln, NE, plan to introduce slot machines ahead of the full build-out.

The Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association filed for a $2.4 million building permit on behalf of the WarHorse Casino developers in Lincoln. The groups would like to convert Lincoln’s simulcast area into a casino floor. The space would accommodate 300 slot machines.

Slot machines in Lincoln are just the beginning

Spokesperson Drew Niehaus is working with casino developers in Hastings, Lincoln, Omaha and South Sioux City. He said the simulcast area would need electrical and security upgrades. Developers will fold the improvements into the overall $220 million project in Lincoln.

Niehaus told PlayIA:

“It’s going to be a much pared-back version of what WarHorse is going to be. We know very well that the people of Nebraska overwhelmingly approve of and want gaming to start in the state. So, while construction is going on, we’re going to try and bring that to them with those 300 machines.

“Now, there’s not going to be any table games or or anything like that. I’m not entirely certain what the status of sports wagering is going to be either, but there will be the 300 slot machines that are available to folks in the area.”

Lincoln casino plans rely on ‘governmental logistics,’ too

Niehaus said a preliminary slot machine build-out is possible in Omaha as well. Details are just a little further along in nearby Lincoln.

“If I understand the scenario correctly, the rules and regulations have been put before the governor. Obviously, we can’t get a license until those are approved. So there’s quite a bit of logistics to work out. Big picture, we have to have the rules and regs passed, which allows us to apply for a license. Once that license is approved, we still have to get people hired and get the individuals licensed.”

Mike Moser, president of Omaha Exposition and Racing had previously said that WarHorse Lincoln is developing about 1,500 stalls on the backside of the Lincoln Race Course, making it capable of year-round horse racing.

The current race schedule in Lincoln started in mid-February and will end July 3.

In the April interview, Moser said:

“Right now, we will run a grand total of usually 52 to 57 race days a year. We want to expand that to the point where we’re running 150 to 200 race days a year.”

WarHorse Lincoln also needs time to line up gaming machine vendors and table game products. Niehaus said:

“So there is still quite a bit of governmental logistics to work out and work through.”

Construction materials will impact the NE casino timeline

The $220 million investment in Lincoln includes a 196-room hotel overlooking the track with a spa, convention center and fine-dining establishments. In addition, plans call for about 1,200 to 1,400 gaming positions, including slot machines and seats at table games.

Niehaus said planners could open the slot machine portion of plans “very early in 2022.”

“Construction steel right now, last I heard, had a six to nine month lead time. So I wish I could give you something a little bit more concrete. I would say, end of the year, shortly after the new year, is feasible.”

Site developers would then need another “10 months or a year” to finish the Lincoln project.

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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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