It’s been nearly seven weeks after voters in Nebraska approved casino gaming at the state’s race tracks. Now, some of the pieces to make that happen are finally coming together. One big piece announced late last week was the creation of the company that will operate gaming at three facilities.
Ho-Chunk Inc. announced it has formed WarHorse Gaming LLC. The LLC will serve as a partnership between the company and the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA). Ho-Chunk is the economic development arm for the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
WarHorse will serve as the brand name for the casinos, which will be located at Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, Lincoln Race Course, and Atokad in South Sioux City. The state HBPA will maintain racing operations at the tracks.
We’re excited to bring a new industry to Nebraska, and, in turn, serve Ho-Chunk, Inc.’s mission of creating jobs and economic opportunity for Tribal members,” said Brian Chamberlain, executive director for WarHorse Gaming and an enrolled Winnebago member.
Both Ho-Chunk and the Nebraska HBPA posted statements indicating work on the casinos remains in the early planning stages. However, the parties believe casino gaming “in some form,” according to Ho-Chunk, will be operational in the latter half of 2021.
They expect grand openings for the three casinos in 2022.
Casino Measures Popular with Nebraska Voters
When Nebraska voters went to the polls on Election Day, their ballots included three casino gaming initiatives.
The first, Measure 429, called for amending the state Constitution to allow for the operation, administration, and taxation of “games of chance” at tracks. The second, Measure 430, called for creating a state gaming commission, and the third, Measure 431, set the tax rate on gross gaming revenue and indicated where the money would be used.
Just how popular was the push for gaming in Nebraska? According to the Board of State Canvassers, President Donald Trump received 556,846 votes. He beat President-elect Joe Biden by 19 percentage points in the state. Of the three casino measures, the one with the least amount of support still tallied 588,405 votes.
Fonner Park Biding Its Time
Another track slated to receive a casino will be Fonner Park in Grand Island.
Last week, Chris Kotulak told Nebraska TV that track officials are doing due diligence and currently interviewing potential casino partners. That includes Ho-Chunk.
After Ho-Chunk and the state HBPA revealed their WarHorse plans, Kotulak posted on his Twitter page that Ho-Chunk and the horsemen “are making very good progress” on their plans.
Fonner Park’s Twitter account also posted a statement.
“Ho Chunk Inc. released digital design video of stunning casino facilities planned for Omaha and Lincoln,” the track’s statement read. “Fonner Park has yet to chose a casino operator, but intends to have a beautiful, clean, safe, new casino when the time is right. Promoting horses, ag & community is priority.”
Besides those tracks, others eligible for gaming licenses include Columbus Races in Columbus and Fair Play Park in Hastings.