Nebraska Casino Projects Receive Provisional Licenses, Developments Underway

Nebraska casinos planned for Lincoln and Omaha are moving forward after the entity behind their undertakings announced receipt of provisional gaming licenses.

An artist’s rendering of Warhorse Casino Lincoln. Two Nebraska casino developments are moving forward with pre-construction after receiving provisional licenses from the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission. (Image: Warhorse Gaming)

Warhorse Gaming was formed earlier this year. The company is a joint partnership between Ho-Chunk Inc., the gaming and hospitality unit of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, and the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA).

Warhorse plans to invest $560 million to transform the horse racetracks in Lincoln, Omaha, and South Sioux City into full-fledged casinos with slot machines, table games, and sports betting. The Lincoln scheme is to be accompanied by a resort hotel, with all the expected amenities.

Nebraska voters legalized commercial gambling during the November 2020 election by way of a ballot referendum. The vote amended the Nebraska Constitution to permit casinos at the state’s six licensed racetracks.

Omaha and Lincoln Ready

Warhorse Gaming has agreements in place with the NHBPA to develop the association’s three horse racetracks into casinos. The Lincoln and Omaha projects will come first, Warhorse Gaming CEO Lance Morgan said this week.

With provisional licenses in place, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission interim concessions allow Warhorse to begin securing financing for the casinos.

Warhorse plans to spend $220 million to pivot the Lincoln Race Course into Warhorse Casino Lincoln. The project’s current blueprint includes plans for a casino with around 1,300 slot machines and table game positions, a sportsbook, 196-room hotel, event space, multiple restaurants, and live and simulcast horse racing.

Warhorse Casino Omaha at Horsemen’s Park is to have 1,600 gaming positions, three restaurants plus a food court, as well as live and simulcast horse racing. But no hotel is currently included.

The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission said the provisional licenses will allow applicants like Warhorse to begin securing financing and begin construction. The provisional concessions do not allow the holder to operate gaming, but assure lenders that the state will likely issue the entity a full operating license in the near future.

We are very appreciative for how fast the commission turned around and issued us provisional licenses. As you can imagine, we are very anxious to begin construction, create jobs, and start keeping the money in Nebraska,” Morgan said in a release.

State gaming regulators say Warhorse should receive its full licenses within 90 days.

Rules Approved

Though Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) urged voters to reject the 2020 gambling referendum, the governor signed off on the proposed regulations that will govern slot machines, table games, and sports betting last December. The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission formally incorporated the regulations on June 2.

Each approved casino will be on the hook to pay the state a flat $1 million annual licensing fee. Gross gaming revenue will be taxed at 20%, with the majority of that revenue going towards the state’s Property Tax Credit Cash Fund.

The casinos will additionally support the state’s General Fund and the host counties where gambling is permitted to take place.

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