The horse racing industry in Nebraska and its potential impact on casino growth are the subject of a recent controversy sparked by an independent analysis that the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission issued. According to the analysis, the state’s six racing licenses offer more than enough room for horse racing to expand, which might have an effect on the casino industry.
At the heart of the dispute is the proposed $150 million Bellevue casino, which is being led by John Hassett of Aksarben Equine. According to the study, Ho-Chunk Inc., the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s economic development agency, is building the WarHorse casino in Omaha at Horsemen’s Park, and it stands to lose a significant $27.4 million a year to this new venue.
Proposed Bellevue Casino Faces Opposition, Threatening Revenue for Omaha’s WarHorse Casino
Industry participants had differing views about whether Nebraska may see further casino development as the research highlights the saturation of the horse racetrack sector. John Hassett makes the case for additional licenses, citing Nebraska’s lower number of casinos than nearby Iowa, but Ho-Chunk Inc. CEO Lance Morgan vehemently disagrees, claiming the report essentially kills the Bellevue project.
Following the passage of the Racetrack gambling Act on the 2020 ballot, which authorized casino gambling in Nebraska, the state required a thorough review of its casino and horse racing industries every five years. In light of the implications for casino operations, the Racing and Gaming Commission’s most recent report calls into doubt the need for more racing licenses.
According to the research, there are enough racing licenses now in place to support a possible tripling or quadrupling of horse racing in Nebraska. Legal requirements to preserve the health of the current industry have led to this decision, which may have serious consequences for prospective casino operators, especially those vying for licenses to open additional racetracks.
Industry Players Debate the Viability of Casino Expansion in Nebraska
The man behind the proposed $150 million racetrack in Bellevue, John Hassett, is the president of Aksarben Equine and disputes the report’s conclusions. He underlines that licenses ought to be denied only in cases where a project negatively impacts the market as a whole, as opposed to just one operator. Hassett cites Iowa, a neighboring state, whose population of 3 million people lives near 19 casinos, whereas Nebraska’s population of 2 million people lives near six casinos.
However, the paper claims that a sizeable amount of income, especially from the WarHorse casino in Omaha, could be diverted by the proposed Bellevue casino. The research indicates that the WarHorse would provide $27.4 million of the expected $60.7 million in revenue, which raises questions regarding the financial sustainability of both projects.
The CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., Lance Morgan, is adamantly against the concept of granting more licenses, claiming that the current tracks have faced difficulties and expended a great deal of money to build the sector. He believes that the report, which echoes worries about the possible harm to current operators, basically heralds the end of the Bellevue project.
The conflicting viewpoints in the debate underscore the fine line that must be drawn between promoting economic expansion and maintaining the integrity of the current market. The controversial conclusions of the Racing and Gaming Commission’s study have left the future of casino development in Nebraska up in the air, pending additional debate and possible legislative actions.