Nebraska Racing And Gaming Commission Report Says No New Racetracks Needed

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on January 4, 2024
Horses Break From The Gate at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Neb

A Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission (NRGC) report, prepared by the Innovation Group of New Orleans, says there’s no need for additional horse racing tracks in Nebraska beyond the existing ones.

For the study, state lawmakers required the commission to deliver results on three aspects:

  1. Horse racing industry analysis
  2. Gaming market analysis
  3. Socioeconomic impact study (including factors like problem gambling, crime, local businesses, community services, household finances, public health and unemployment)

The Gaming and Horseracing Market Analysis study notes that there is “more than sufficient capacity with the state’s existing six racing licenses to allow for a tripling or quadrupling of racing in Nebraska.”

The report also considers what it would look like if Nebraska added more racetrack casinos, including the proposed Bellevue racetrack casino and its impact, as it could cut into the revenue of existing Nebraska racetrack casinos (racinos). The proposed racetrack casino would be located near WarHorse Omaha and other competitors across the border in Council Bluffs.

Revenue potential for Nebraska casinos according to eight scenarios

The gaming market analysis also evaluated the revenue potential for Nebraska’s casinos. There were eight scenarios with additional racetrack casinos proposed:

  • Scenario 1: assuming a new racetrack and casino for Bellevue
  • Scenario 2: assuming a new racetrack and casino for Norfolk
  • Scenario 3: assuming a new racetrack and casino for York
  • Scenario 4: assuming a new racetrack and casino for North Platte
  • Scenario 5: assuming a new racetrack and casino for Gering
  • Scenario 6: assuming a new racetrack and casino for Kimball
  • Scenario 7: assuming the racetrack in Hastings is relocated to Ogallala
  • Scenario 8: assuming a combination of Scenarios 1-7

Scenario 8 has the highest net gain to the state but would have the largest impact on existing license holders, while Scenario 5 and 6 involve a little overlap with existing licenses.

Scenario 7 does not involve the addition of a new racing license but instead relocating the Hastings license farther west to Ogallala. It is where it would have improved market potential and had a lower overlap with the other five existing licenses.

All things considered, the market analysis suggests the top candidates for expansion between three cities – Bellevue, Kimball and Gering. Due to the large population in the Omaha area, Bellevue racino still generates more revenue than any other potential racino in the other scenarios, $60.7 million to be more precise.

Only one Nebraska racetrack operates a full racing schedule

The racing industry analysis emphasized Nebraska Initiative 431, which links casino development to racing licenses. Thus, any further casino development beyond the six existing ones would require the development of a racetrack.

Currently, there are six licensed racetracks eligible for casinos:

  1. Legacy Downs in Lincoln
  2. Fonner Park in Grand Island
  3. Horsemen’s Park in Omaha
  4. Atokad in South Sioux City
  5. FairPlay Park in Hastings
  6. Columbus Exposition and Racing in Columbus

Fonner Park in Grand Island is the only location with a full racing schedule, with 42 race days during last year. Columbus Exposition and Racing had nine race days in 2023, and Atokad offered two. The remaining three locations offered one day.

Nebraska is also a home of temporary commercial facilities, including WarHorse Casino in Lincoln, Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park, and Harrah’s in Columbus.

Photo by Nati Harnik / AP Photo
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for PlayCanada.com. Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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