GAMBLING

Nebraska Casinos Win $89M in 2023, Generate $18M in Taxes

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Posted on: January 22, 2024, 10:20h. 

Last updated on: January 22, 2024, 10:26h.

Nebraska casinos generated gross gaming revenue (GGR) of moe than $89 million in their first full year of operation.

Nebraska casinos gaming revenue
The temporary WarHorse Sportsbook at Horsemen’s Park in Nebraska operates out of a modular trailer. Nebraska casinos won about $89 million in their first full year. Three temporary casinos were operating at the end of 2023. (Image: Omaha World-Herald)

Nebraska voters approved commercial casinos through a 2020 statewide ballot referendum. The outcome allowed six horse racetracks to pursue gaming licenses.

Five of the tracks, including Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, Lincoln Race Course, Agricultural Park in Columbus, Fonner Park in Grand Island, and Fairplay Park in Hastings are moving forward with casinos. While the permanent gaming floors are being built, the state’s gaming statute allows greenlit projects to open temporary casinos to help fund the developments.

There were three temporary casinos in operation last year. WarHorse Casino in Lincoln led the way with $51.5 million in 2023 GGR, with the facility’s 400 slot machines accounting for $50.2 million of the win and sports betting the remaining $1.3 million.

WarHorse Casino Lincoln opened on Sept. 24, 2022. The other casino open for all 12 months of 2023 was the Grand Island Casino at Fonner Park.

Grand Island won nearly $30 million last year, with $27.8 million from slots, $1.8 million from electronic and live dealer table games, and $245K from sports betting.

Harrah’s Columbus at Ag Park opened in mid-June last year. During the temporary casino’s first five and a half months in business, the facility’s 500 slots and electronic table games won about $7.4 million. Slots accounted for more than $7 million of the house win.

At Horsemen’s Park, WarHorse, which is also redeveloping that track into a casino destination, opened a temporary sportsbook but doesn’t offer slots or table games. The book opened in November and won $224K through December.

Solid Debut

Initiative 429, the 2020 gaming ballot referendum, garnered strong support with 65% of voters saying “yes” to racetrack casinos.

The statute was promoted by its supporters as a way to recoup the estimated $400 million a year that Nebraskans gamble at casinos outside the state each year. The referendum was also hyped as a way to support the horsemen and create new jobs, taxes, and economic activity.

The full benefits, the executives behind the project say, won’t be realized until the permanent resorts open. But 2023 was a strong start to what they hope will become a major gaming market.

We’re very happy with the results,” Pete Graziano, vice president of marketing at WarHorse, told the Lincoln Journal Star. “We weren’t sure what to expect.”

Nebraska casinos generated approximately $17.8 million in tax money, with 70% going to reduce property taxes. Host counties and cities receive 25% of the taxes, which amounted to $4.45 million. The remaining money supported problem gambling programs.

Live Racing Component

To have slot machines and other gambling, a casino must feature live horse racing on its premises. Two of the four permanent casino resort projects involve the construction of new racetracks.

Caesars Entertainment is relocating the AgPark track to northwest of the downtown Columbus area. The $75 million development will result in a 40,000-square-foot casino with 500 slots, 14 live dealer table games, a Caesars Sportsbook, and a one-mile horse racetrack.

Elite Casino Resorts is relocating Fonner Park to Ogallala near the northeastern corner of Colorado. The $100 million project includes a casino floor with 650 slots, 20 tables, a 180-room hotel, and an RV park. Dubbed the Lake Mac Casino Resort & Racetrack, the facility will also include a new quarter-horse racetrack.

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