Nevada Harness Racing Track Plan Would Bring Racino to Pahrump

Posted on: May 12, 2022, 02:25h. 

Last updated on: May 12, 2022, 11:18h.

Plans are underway to bring harness racing to Nevada in the form of a 40,000 square-foot resort “racino” in the small town of Pahrump, 60 miles west of Las Vegas.

Nevada horse racing
Thoroughbred racing at the White Pine County Fair, one of the few places to catch some live horse racing in Nevada. (Image: Mike Brunker/Las Vegas Review Journal)

The proposal is the brainchild of the Nevada Standardbred Association (NSA), an organization devoted to promoting harness racing in the state, The Pahrump Valley Times reports.

There is a major opportunity here,” Jeff Zidek, a racing veteran and consultant on the project, told the Times. “The western part of the country has very few tracks.”

As well as a ⅞-mile track with a stable for 280 horses, the facility would include restaurants, shopping facilities, campgrounds, a waterpark, batting cages, a movie theater, and virtual reality attractions. It would also have parking for more than 2,500 cars and 200 RVs, according to the proposal.

Horses for Courses

NSA president Tim Bohannon also wants an annual three-day festival that would be held over the long Nevada Day weekend.

Bohannon pitched the project to county commissioners last week, and the response was enthusiastic. The project could generate about 200 full-time jobs for horse trainers, vets and techs, groundskeepers, ticket vendors, and other hospitality workers, Bohannon told commissioners.

Racing would run from late October until the end of May, per the proposal, with two weekly meets featuring 12 live races a day during the season. They would also be simulcast internationally.

Las Vegas’ Horse Racing History

Despite Nevada’s status as a gambling mecca, horse racing has never taken off in the state outside of the White Pine and Elko County fairs. Meanwhile, efforts to introduce thoroughbred racing to Las Vegas itself have been short-lived.

Las Vegas Park opened in 1953 and lasted just six weeks. Las Vegas Sunfounder Hank Greenspun alleged in his 1966 autobiography that the whole thing was an embezzlement scheme from start to finish.

In 1963 came Thunderbird Downs. The track was located on the back grounds of the old Thunderbird Hotel, which once stood on land that is now part of the Fontainebleau project. It lasted three years. In 1981, Las Vegas Downs opened in Henderson, but struggled financially from the get-go.

Despite a remit to provide thoroughbred and quarter horse racing, throughout its brief existence it mainly offered dog racing.

While on paper, Nevada would seem like natural fit for horse racing, the reality is that there has always been too much competition in the state, too many other opportunities to gamble in more comfortable, air-conditioned environments.

The NSA is hoping that its concept of a racetrack that is also a modern entertainment center will buck the trend.