WarHorse Casino Lincoln Becomes Nebraska’s First Casino

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on September 26, 2022
Warhorse Casino in Lincoln Nebraska now open for business

The first state-licensed casino in Nebraska opened its doors Saturday, marking Lincoln’s first pull of a slot machine.

The state officials hope WarHorse Casino Lincoln will increase revenue in the region and improve horse racing.

Lance Morgan, president and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., a Winnebago Tribe-affiliated company, told Lincoln’s ABC affiliate:

“Horse racing has been on life support. The dollars generated from gaming are not just going to create a new industry and a new property tax base for Nebraska, it’s also going to pump money into rural Nebraska for horse racing. And so, people who have just been hanging on because they were committed to racing because they loved it, are now going to have an opportunity to make a living at it.”

WarHorse Casino in Lincoln is just a temporary facility, with a permanent one to open in more than a year.

Opening day for WarHorse Lincoln goes smoothly

WarHorse Casino opened its doors Saturday morning in its temporary location at Lincoln Race Course while more than 100 people waited outside the property.

A half-hour before the doors were officially open, Tribal Elder and member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s Tribal Council, Ken Mallory was among the first to spin the reels of a slot machine in the casino.

Malory joked as he pulled a slot machine with Wally Wollesen of the Nebraska Horsemen’s and Benevolent Association.

“What’s the difference between praying at church and praying at the casino? At the casino, you really mean it.”

By 10 a.m, more than 100 guests gathered outside to be among the first inside the temporary casino to experience state-licensed gambling in Nebraska. The casino staff checked IDs and handed out player cards as the first guests headed inside.

By 10:45 a.m, nearly 150 people were inside the 850-capacity building. With the parking lot full, staff opened overflow spaces to accommodate the public.

According to Lynne McNally of the Horsemen’s group, a partner in the Lincoln casino project, that flow of people remained steady throughout the day.

Casino enthusiasts were impressed by the large space and the number of slot machines available. Visitors rushed inside to check out and try various machines throughout the building.

An ongoing Nebraska casino project

The goal is to complete the casino in September 2023. By then, the property will feature more slot machines and tables, as well as a steakhouse and a hotel with a parking lot. If everything goes according to plan, the casino will have:

  • 1,100 slot machines
  • 100 table games
  • A sportsbook
  • Live and simulcast horse racing
  • 200-room hotel with a parking garage

Contractors estimate the casino could have nearly $5 million in revenue in the first year. WarHorse casinos will also open in Omaha and South Sioux City.

When the casino broke ground in July, Morgan said:

“We’re thrilled to have reached this point. It’s been a long road getting here since the voters approved the initiatives back in 2020, but we’re very excited for all the opportunities WarHorse Lincoln will bring to the community and look forward to delivering on our promise of keeping the money in Nebraska.”

A long-awaited process

The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission granted WarHorse Lincoln its license on Sept. 23, a historic vote nearly two years after Nebraskan voters approved casinos at the state’s licensed horse racetracks.

As Morgan said:

“We’ve worked on it for years, and to see it come to fruition it’s almost surreal. Like, I’m having trouble believing it.”

As a result of the casino opening, Nebraskans will no longer have to cross the border into Iowa to play casino games.

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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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