Nebraska gaming commission study suggests there’s no need for additional racetrack casinos

The report is generating disagreement over how it may impact the Bellevue proposal. This study kills Bellevue,” said Lance Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of Ho-Chunk Inc., the parent company of WarHorse and the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

WarHorse is developing racetrack casinos in Lincoln, Omaha, and South Sioux City in partnership with the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. According to Morgan, Bellevue’s negative impact on existing Nebraska casinos should prevent its licensing.

Lance Morgan

However, John Hassett, a keno operator and applicant for the Bellevue license, said he disagrees with Morgan’s reading of the state law. Hassett believes the commission could approve new licenses if they aren’t detrimental to the state’s overall market, regardless of whether they affect a particular casino. “I wonder, too, how much the racing and gaming commission should be picking the winners and losers,” he said.

The report appears to clear the way for the transfer of the Hastings Exposition and Racing license to Ogallala as part of a proposed casino development off Interstate 80. Commissioners in November gave conditional approval to that transfer, pending the study results. Hastings Exposition and Racing is partnering with Elite Casino Resorts on the project, which would include a 5/8-mile racetrack and racing facilities, 180 hotel rooms, an event center, a travel center, an RV park, and a casino.

If Bellevue gets a casino, anticipated gaming tax revenue for Douglas County and the City of Omaha would be reduced while Sarpy County and the City of Bellevue would gain. Meanwhile, moving the Hastings license to Ogallala would add $18 million in gambling revenue to the state’s income, but would not take revenue from any of the other existing licenses.

Hastings racetrack and casino would be located near Lake McConaughy

Hassett said the study shows that Bellevue would be the highest-grossing market of any Nebraska city that doesn’t currently have an approved casino. The facility would be south of Bellevue, along Fairview Road, which is south of where it was originally proposed. “It’s the largest city and by far the largest county that doesn’t have a racetrack and casino,” he said.