Western Nebraska residents may soon be able to get in on some casino gaming without having to drive across the state.
The possible good news for those Nebraskans came after Sen. Mike Jacobson introduced Legislative Bill 148 which would allow the state’s existing horse-racing tracks to proceed.
The bill would extend the deadline for the completion of “racinos” (horse tracks that offer casino gaming) and create licenses for new tracks in Nebraska.
Jacobson urges western Nebraska to build racinos sooner
Legislative Bill 148 would overrule lawmakers’ 2022 decision to delay new horse track-casino combinations. That is, until after the statewide market analyses and a study of their socioeconomic impact are completed.
The bill would also extend the deadline for the racinos’ completion from 2025 to 2030 and let regulators potentially approve new horse racing licenses in the state.
Such action would allow new possibilities for those who proposed racinos in North Platte, Ogallala and Gering.
Last year, Legislative Bill 876 set requirements for the approval of new horse racetracks in the state and restricted the number of casinos.
At the time of the vote, Nebraska had six tracks which had the potential for six casinos in the following cities:
- Grand Island
- South Sioux City
Because of its limit, Legislative Bill 876 amounted to a suspension on considering new racino locations.
Western Nebraska racinos could become a reality too
Voters in the Cornhusker State made it possible for racetracks to add casino gaming in 2020.
Last year, Nebraska finalized casino regulations that took effect in May 2022. Then, it was up to Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission to agree on a fee structure for the licenses which would allow racetracks to offer casino games.
Although Jacobson said he voted against the 2020 initiatives, he said it’s now a matter of fact that casinos are a reality in Nebraska.
Jacobson explained his position to Todd von Kampen of the North Platte Telegraph.
“Now that we have casino gambling approved in the state, we know we’ll get the collateral damage in North Platte (from it) whether we like it or not.
You can drive to Grand Island, 150 miles away, and leave your money there and they get all the property tax relief there. Or we can have a racetrack and casino in North Platte and capture the property tax relief and some of the Interstate (80) traffic to help with that.”
Gary Person, president and CEO of the North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp., supported Jacobson. He also emphasized that the 2022 Legislature made it difficult for new Nebraska racinos to open.
As Person told the Telegraph:
“Sen. Jacobson’s bill will help open that door to west central and western Nebraska without a lengthy delay.
Why should only communities from Grand Island east be allowed to participate on a statewide initiative that will have a property tax reduction component to it?”
In addition to North Platte, Gering and Ogallala, all located in western Nebraska, other communities, such as Bellevue, York and Norfolk have also shown interest in making new racetracks with casinos.
Despite the delay imposed by the suspension, some of these cities are still trying hard to get a new license allowance.