Nebraska's first casino to hold groundbreaking ceremony this summer

June 1, 2022

WarHorse Gaming is planning to hold a break ground ceremony later in summer this year on their new casino located at the Horsemen’s Park. The company calls the construction project a “dynamic casino, racing and entertainment complex” standing next to the 63rd and Q Streets. It will be the first legal retail casino in the state of Nebraska when it starts operating.

WarHorse representative Drew Niehaus said the ceremony is expected to be held in mid to late summer at the Omaha construction location. He said, “simulcasting will be moved to temporary trailers on the infield to continue operations,” when the construction starts a the Park.

The project from the subsidiary of Ho-Chunk Inc. plans not only to renovate the current Horsemen’s Park but also to add 67,000 square feet of expansion to it as the City of Omaha reported previously.

The new permanent facility will feature gambling tables, 1,200 gaming machines, and live simulcast racing. For its hospitality services, it will have a live entertainment stage, several bars, a food court, and a coffee place.

A transitional facility or a temporary casino will be open to the public after renovations are done approximately 10 months after the groundbreaking. The temporary casino will hold 800 gambling machines.

Voters have actually agreed in 2020 to the expansion of the casino’s licensed racetracks in three ballot initiatives. But the project just move forward recently around 18 months later.

Planning, approvals

From the tax-increment financing application, WarHorse actually planned to start the construction through a break ground ceremony last year summer which was expected to complete in September this year. The delay was caused by the massive amount of regulatory work for the state.

The cost of the construction of the casino if it is built in 2021 was $220 million. WarHorse then received $17.5 million in TIF for Horsemen’s Park redevelopment. They also get $6 million to upgrade offsite public places.

“The state of Nebraska is launching an entirely new industry,” said Niehaus. “Obviously there will be amendments, but they want to get it right from the get-go.”

The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission have previously approved casino gambling rules and regulations 67 pages thick in December 2021 as well as Governor Pete Ricketts in early May. It is a giant positive move since the election in 2020.

The Gaming Commission planned to vote for approval of the application fee structure for casino operators in the May 6 meeting. But it failed to happen thus the casino must wait some more before beginning to construct its venue.

Lynne McNally, executive vice president of the Benevolent and Protective Association in the Nebraska Horsemen said to Lincoln Journal Star the Commission will possibly approve the fee at the meeting on June 2.

The potential casino operators will submit the required applications the day after the Commissions are approved in the meeting. The Commission will need two months at most to process the applications and approve each one at every monthly meeting.

“It’s been a long process to get here, but we fully support the state taking its time,” Niehaus said.

Jake Williams
Jake Williams is a sports gambling expert. He's been writing in the sports betting and DFS industry for over a decade. He specializes in MLB and NBA, along with College Basketball and College Football.