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Nebraska Gambling Expansion Could Slow in 2024

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A new report commissioned by the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission has concluded that the state's current six licensed racetracks have more than enough capacity to accommodate the demand for horse racing and the associated casinos. This finding could significantly impact proposals to establish new racetracks across Nebraska, potentially stalling the expansion of gambling in the state.

No More Room

The report analyzed the current horse racing industry in Nebraska and the potential impact of adding new tracks and gaming facilities. It found that the six existing tracks hosted a total of 53 race days in 2022, with Fonner Park in Grand Island being the sole venue offering a full racing schedule. This suggests that the current infrastructure can handle the existing demand for horse racing in the state.

Related: Nebraska Gaming Expansion Busts Myth That Casinos Attract Crime

The report also examined the potential impact of a proposed racetrack casino in Bellevue, Nebraska. The study found that while the Bellevue casino would boost overall gambling revenue in the state, it would also cannibalize the revenue of existing racetrack casinos, particularly WarHorse Omaha. This could lead to job losses and reduced tax revenue for the municipalities that host these existing casinos.

The report's findings cast doubt on the need for additional racetracks in Nebraska, as the current facilities appear to be more than sufficient to meet the demand for horse racing and associated gambling activities. This could dampen the enthusiasm of developers seeking to establish new racetrack casinos across the state.

WarHorse on the War Path

The report's findings are particularly concerning for existing casino operators, such as WarHorse Nebraska, which has been developing racetrack casinos in Lincoln, Omaha and South Sioux City. The potential cannibalization of revenue from new racetrack casinos could jeopardize these projects and the economic benefits they are expected to bring to the communities where they are located.

The report's conclusion that Nebraska has sufficient racetrack capacity aligns with the sentiment of many stakeholders in the industry. Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., the parent company of WarHorse Nebraska, has expressed concerns about the detrimental impact of adding new racetracks on existing operations. He believes that expanding the number of tracks would not be fair to those who have already invested in the industry.

In 2020, Nebraska voters approved a ballot measure that links casino development with racetrack licenses. This means that any entity seeking to construct a casino in the state, excluding the six existing racetrack license holders, must first secure approval for a racetrack from the state government. This requirement aims to ensure that any proposed casinos are adequately integrated with horse racing operations, thereby supporting the state's horse racing industry.

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