Nebraska’s WarHorse casino in Omaha hopes to break ground this summer

Nebraska voted to allow casinos at horse racetracks in November 2020.
Nebraska voted to allow casinos at horse racetracks in November 2020.

The groundbreaking ceremony at the Omaha location for the WarHorse casino will take place sometime in mid- to late summer.

US.- WarHorse Gaming, a subsidiary of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska‘s economic development arm Ho-Chunk, intends to break ground this summer on a new gaming facility in Omaha. The “dynamic casino, racing and entertainment complex” will be located at the site of Horsemen’s Park near 63rd and Q streets.

According to the plan presented to the city, the project involves renovations to the existing complex as well as nearly 67,000 square feet in new construction and expansion.

The facility will feature gambling tables and more than 1,200 gaming machines, as well as live and simulcast racing. There are also plans for a live entertainment stage, multiple bars, a food hall and a coffee shop. The project stipulates that once renovations are complete, a temporary facility will be set up with 800 gambling machines, about 10 months after the groundbreaking.

Drew Niehaus, a representative for WarHorse, said he expects the groundbreaking ceremony at the Omaha location to take place sometime in mid- to late summer. When construction begins in the existing building, simulcasting will be moved to temporary trailers on the infield to continue operations.

WarHorse had hoped to break ground on the Omaha facility by summer 2021 and finish construction by September 2022 but the project was delayed by regulatory work. Nebraska voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing casinos at the state’s horse racetracks in November 2020.

Before construction can begin in Omaha, the gaming commission must approve an application fee structure for casino operators. The commission was scheduled to vote on the fees at its May 6 meeting, but the agenda item was laid over.

If fees are approved at that meeting, potential casino operators could start submitting applications the very next day. It will take a month or two for those applications to be processed, and the commission will then have to approve each application during its monthly meeting.

“The state of Nebraska is launching an entirely new industry,” Niehaus said. “Obviously there will be amendments, but they want to get it right from the get-go.”

All six licensed horse tracks, which are located in Lincoln, Omaha, South Sioux City, Columbus, Grand Island and Hastings, have announced plans to add casinos. Six additional racetracks have been proposed in Bellevue, Gering, Kimball, Norfolk, North Platte and York.

See also: City Council approves horse racetrack and casino in Nebraska

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