Hastings Racetrack Owner Seeks Relocation to Ogallala for Casino Resort

Posted on: June 21, 2023, 09:41h. 

Last updated on: June 21, 2023, 09:52h.

Brian Becker, the owner of Hastings Exposition and Racing, Inc., in Nebraska, wants to relocate his state-issued racing license 200 miles west to Ogallala at the entrance to the state’s panhandle.

Hastings racetrack casino Nebraska Ogallala Elite
The City of Ogallala in Nebraska is being targeted for a racetrack casino by the current owner of the Hastings horse racetrack. The project is tentatively called Lake Mac Casino & Racetrack. (Image: City of Ogallala/Casino.org)

Nebraska’s commercial gaming bill approved by state voters during the 2020 election authorized the state’s licensed racetrack facilities to become Las Vegas-style casinos with slot machines, live dealer table games, and sports betting.

Hastings Exposition and Racing’s Fairplay Park was one of the six tracks authorized to incorporate a casino. The other tracks are Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, Lincoln Race Course, Agricultural Park in Columbus, Fonner Park in Grand Island, and the shuttered Atokad Downs in South Sioux City.

Becker initially partnered with the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, a wealthy tribe with strong expertise in casino gaming operations. The partnership proposed a casino resort with a new horse racetrack on the northern edge of Hastings.

After a group of residents levied a campaign against the project, the Hastings City Council rejected the development in March 2022 before agreeing in November to reconsider its decision. Becker, however, had already found a new gaming partner and new host city by way of Ogallala.

Relocation Plans

On Tuesday, Becker announced a new partnership with Iowa-based Elite Casino Resorts, a leading gaming operator in the Midwest. Hastings Racing and Elite hope to construct a casino resort with a racetrack in Ogallala.

The resort would be called the Lake Mac Casino Resort & Racetrack. Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area is popular for outdoor recreation, as the 30,000-acre park features white sand beaches, clear waters, and an abundance of camping, boating, swimming, and hunting.

The $100 million pitch would encompass a 174-acre site and feature a casino floor with 650 slot machines, 20 live dealer table games, and a dedicated poker room. The resort would be highlighted by a 180-room hotel, an event center, numerous dining options, an RV park, and a pool and spa.

Brian Jorde, a spokesperson for Hastings Racing and Exposition, an entity that will likely undergo a rebranding should its relocation be approved, said the overall plan is to create a quarter horse racing circuit with a new track in Ogallala and a second new track in Gering sometime in the future.

Western Nebraska always gets shut out,” Jorde said. “Our plan is to get this up and going in Ogallala and then get up and going in Gering and have a Quarter Horse circuit between the two locations.”

Becker said Elite is an attractive partner because, like his Hastings Racing, the gaming company has been around for decades.

“It is a perfect partnership to help grow the quarter horse racing industry,” Becker commented.

Move Approval

Elite Casino Resorts already has one Nebraska casino project secured in its partnership with the Hall County Livestock Improvement Association for its Fonner Park in Grand Island. Elite is investing $100 million there to construct a 37,000-square-foot casino that will also feature about 650 slot machines and 20 tables.

Because of Elite’s project, dubbed Grand Island Casino Resort, the company believes locating Hastings Exposition’s casino further west will allow both properties to succeed.

Jorde said Hastings seeking state approval to relocate to Ogallala is “doing everyone a favor.”

That state approval must come from the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission. Jorde said the group on Tuesday submitted its relocation plans to the state racing and gaming regulator. There’s no timeline on when the state might vote on the move.