After legislative Bill 876 aimed at expanding the gambling market in Nebraska gained traction at the end of March with senator Tom Briese by its side, it was Governor Pete Ricketts’ turn to bring his contribution to the saga. Last Wednesday, Ricketts signed off the rules that would allow casino gambling in the Cornhusker State. The rules are expected to come into effect today, giving the green light to operators eager to apply for a license. However, the actual starting date of the licensing procedure has been postponed until June 2 at the earliest.
Why the Delay?
The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission still needs to work out how much applicants will need to pay to get their licenses. Last November, the commission talked about a $1 million fee for a 20-year licensing permit.
Since their next meeting will be held on June 2, casino operators will need to remain patient until then and wait for the hurdles to be cleared. According to information made public by the Commission’s director Tom Sage, the processing procedure will between 30 to 60 days. Next, the request will need to be added to the commission’s agenda to be granted or denied its approval.
Translation: operators will need to wait until the start of fall or at least the end of summer for a license. The first in line to apply for one will be Nebraska Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Association together with its new partner Ho-Chunk. Together, the two are eager to build a number of WarHorse branded casinos in Nebraska, with selected locations in South Sioux City, Lincoln, and Omaha. Ho-Chunk spent the last five years eagerly waiting to add the gaming vertical to their War Horse business. The company will, however, need to wait at least one more year and a half to open its Lincoln venue. Nonetheless, an interim gaming venue is expected to open in the upcoming months.
Keep the Money in Nebraska
Close to 65% of voters in Nebraska showed their support for casino gambling at the state’s racetracks during the 2020 ballot. The ballot was also supported by Ho-Chunk and the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association owned by the state. The success of the self-entitled “Keep the Money in Nebraska” ballot was explained through Nebraskans’ pride and a desire to keep the money within state lines. This came in the context of state racetracks going on a descending trend ever since Iowa made casino gambling legal over three decades ago.
Close to $400 million from Nebraska’s players reach casinos in Iowa on a yearly basis. The legalization of gambling in Nebraska was regarded as a means of beefing up the state treasury’s pockets by $60 million to $120 million a year.
The Lincoln Race Course, Fonner Park, Caesars Entertainment, the Chickasaw Nation, and other important operators in Nebraska have all expressed their plans to build or redevelop racetracks and casinos at various locations within the state. However, their proposals will only be taken into consideration after the Racing and Gaming Commission will finish assessing the economic and social impact of the new constructions, as part of the new regulations. Columbus, Lincoln, Grand Island, Omaha, Hastings, and South Sioux City are the six counties that will originally accept new casinos.