Governor approves Nebraska casino rules this week

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Earlier this week, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts gave his signature to new rules connected to the upcoming casino industry. With the regulation approval, the process of licensing can begin, but it will still be some time before actual gaming begins.

What’s Next in the Process?

Around 18 months ago, voters in Nebraska approved an expansion of gambling. This approval paves the way for horse racing tracks in the state to offer casino gaming options. Now that the rules are in place, additional decisions must be made before the licensing process can move forward.

During a recent meeting of the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, the board decided to defer a vote regarding the fee structure for casino applications. Why the board didn’t go ahead with the vote is anyone’s guess.

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The commission must improve the fee element, so casinos cannot begin filling out applications for licensing until a vote is had. It is expected that the vote will take place in early June, during the next commission meeting.

Once the vote takes place and the decision is made, then casino operators can begin applying for licensing. It will take 30 to 60 days to process each application. Once processed, with background checks included, the applications go to the commission. The board must approve the application too before licensing will be awarded.

With these steps remaining, it could be late into the summer or even early fall before casino operators are approved.

Operators Have Big Plans

The racetracks currently operating in Nebraska have big plans for getting started in the casino industry. Fonner Park in Grand Island plans to apply and will open a temporary casino before the permanent structure is complete. New locations will be offered in Columbus and Hastings, while Caesar’s Entertainment is busy prepping a new horse track and Harrah’s Casino near Columbus.

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The Harrah’s facility won’t be ready until later on in 2023, but it will be a brand-new venue for the state. The Chickasaw Nation is also planning on offering a new track and casino. The property will be placed in Hastings. While the plan is in motion, the City Council voted two months ago against the Chickasaw project.

Lincoln Race Course also has plans to create a casino in the state. The operator will spend $220 million to offer additional gaming, a large hotel, event space, restaurant dining, and other options. The casino will be home to over 1,200 gaming stations. This project would take from a year and a half to two years to complete.

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