Posted on: July 30, 2022, 05:15h. 

Last updated on: July 30, 2022, 06:21h.

The Omaha casino plan for Horsemen’s Park is officially under construction.

Omaha casino WarHorse Gaming Nebraska gambling
WarHorse Gaming breaks ground on its Omaha casino at Horsemen’s Park on July 27, 2022. The Nebraska casino project is one of six casinos in the works in the Cornhusker State. (Image: WarHorse Gaming)

Nebraska voters passed a ballot referendum during the November 2020 election that amended the state constitution. It allows casinos at the state’s six licensed horse racetracks. The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska funded the 2022 referendum campaign through its economic arm, Ho-Chunk, Inc.

Following the initiative’s passing, the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA), which owns and manages three of the state’s six racetracks, partnered with Ho-Chunk to transform the tracks into casinos with slot machines, tables games, and sports betting. The NHBPA controls Lincoln Race Course, Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, and Atokad Downs in South Sioux City.

The NHBPA and Ho-Chunk formed a joint entity called WarHorse Gaming. The combined group will bankroll the investments and then own and operate the casinos.

Casinos Underway

WarHorse broke ground on the Lincoln casino project earlier this month. It is the largest of the three undertakings. WarHorse plans to invest $220 million into transforming the race track into a gaming resort with a 196-room hotel, multiple restaurants, convention and meeting facilities, and live and simulcast wagering.

The Lincoln casino plans to have approximately 1,300 slot machines and table game positions, plus a sportsbook. The Omaha casino plan is larger, as the current blueprint suggests as many as 1,600 gaming positions. While there will be dining options, no hotel or resort amenities are currently planned.

WarHorse Gaming held a ceremonial groundbreaking on the Omaha project last week, but did not detail how much the build is expected to cost.

It’s very exciting to have reached this point, but even more exciting knowing what the future holds for Omaha and the state,” said Ho-Chunk CEO Lance Morgan. “Nebraskans made their thoughts clear in the 2020 election — we want to keep our money in our state. Today is a significant milestone in making that happen.”

A little more than 65% of Nebraskans who voted on the 2020 referendum supported the casino question. WarHorse plans to have its Omaha casino ready in the second half of 2023. The Lincoln casino portion of the resort is on track to open this fall.

Property Tax Relief

Nebraska lawmakers decided to use its entry into commercial gambling to help provide residents with property tax relief.

The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission last December formally adopted the rules implemented by the Nevada Legislature. Gross gaming revenue (GGR) generated by the forthcoming casinos will be subject to a 20% tax. Most of that money will be set aside for the state’s Property Tax Credit Cash Fund.

Along with the WarHorse casinos in Lincoln, Omaha, and South Sioux City, Caesars Entertainment plans to inject $75 million into the Columbus racetrack and rename the property Harrah’s Racetrack and Casino.

Elite Casino Resorts is developing a casino at Fonner Park in Grand Island, and the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma is planning a casino at Fairplay Park in Hastings. The Chickasaw’s original development bid, however, was rejected by local officials in March.