It might not boast all the amenities and glitz of the eventual Nebraska casinos, but it could be coming soon. One of the racetracks in the Cornhusker State is itching to get started on offering slots and table games to visitors, with plans to potentially start doing so by Thanksgiving 2022.
Fonner Park in Grand Island will begin construction on a temporary casino as soon as next month. If everything goes according to plan, that means Nebraskans could spend Black Friday this year hitting the slot machines.
First of several Nebraska casinos could open in November
According to Brandon Summers of the Grand Island Independent, Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak spoke to the Grand Island Noon Rotary Club on Tuesday and shared news about the forthcoming “racino” at the racetrack.
Kotulak said the racetrack plans to begin construction on a temporary home for slot machines on the racetrack’s concourse after the Nebraska State Fair ends. Ideally, that will happen on Sept. 7, two days after the fair’s finale on Sept. 5.
Kotulak added that “the plan is to get the slot machines up and running” as construction on the permanent casino at the track is ongoing. Then, “as we draw closer to when the resort would be open…probably fold in some of the table games.”
The temporary casino will have 300 slot machines. Kotulak emphasized that while it will lack many of the amenities that the permanent location will boast, it won’t be a bare-bones presentation.
“All along, we said we’re not going to just open up some metal shed and throw in some slots and call it done,” Kotulak added.
Kotulak also stated that commercials for the temporary location will start airing soon and they expect to operate that facility for at least two years. It should offer Nebraskans a taste of what’s to come.
Much more than slots coming to Nebraska
At Fonner Park itself, the future plans call for much more than a glorified metal shed with some slots inside. An April 2021 press release from the track says the $100 million project will offer up to 850 slot machines, 20 gaming tables, and a sportsbook plus amenities like a hotel, restaurants, a salon, and a spa.
Construction is ongoing on casino expansions at the racetracks in Lincoln and Omaha currently as well. In November of 2020, the state’s voters authorized all six racetracks in Nebraska adding slots and table games to their gambling options. Also since then, the state’s legislature has approved in-person wagering on sporting events at the tracks.
The temporary facility at Fonner Park could be the first of those to actually fire up the slot machines. Right now, the whole affair is just waiting on the Fair.