Nebraska Casino Legalization Worries Iowa Gambling Industry

Iowa’s gambling industry officials are worried that a vote in Nebraska last week, which greenlighted the opening of several casinos, could hurt their bottom line, the Associated Press reports. 

Along with the Presidential elections, Nebraska voters approved three constitutional amendments last week, paving the way for casinos to be opened at the six licensed horse tracks in the state. This would allow for the newly legalized industry to be regulated and some of the tax revenue to be diverted as a tax credit to the property owners. 

COVID already affecting Iowa businesses

Such a development could impact the gambling industry in neighboring Iowa which has long attracted patrons from Nebraska. The amendment proposals were approved by about two-thirds of votes.

They come at a complicated time for the Hawkeye State’s gambling business as it struggles to get a hold of its falling revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re still trying to rebound in all the markets because of COVID-19,” Iowa Gaming Association President Wes Ehrecke said. 

Industry representatives are particularly worried about the impact on gaming revenues in Council Bluffs, which hosts four casinos. Sioux City, Sloan, and Onawa are also among the cities that could be affected. 

Gambling to boost Nebraska horse racing

Nebraska gambling enthusiasts, on the other hand, seem to be looking forward to bringing home some of the $500 million local gamblers would spend in Iowa and other states on a normal year. As soon as they open the casinos in Omaha and Lincoln, they plan to expand them with restaurants, hotels, and other facilities. 

This should also help revive local horse racing as increased revenues would boost racing prizes, according to Michael Newlin, General Manager of Horseman’s Park in Omaha and Lincoln Race Course. He is optimistic that racing would again flourish in Nebraska, even though it has been in decline for decades. “In three to five years, I think we will start seeing trainers and owners in Iowa finally come back home to Nebraska,” he says. 

Yet, not everyone is convinced. Gary Palmer, General Manager of Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Altoona, Iowa, notes that the nationwide inventory of horses is low. “We’ll have to see how it works,” he adds.

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