Nebraska voters approved the addition of casino gaming at horse racing venues, but state regulators are yet to draft the rules and regulations under which this type of activity will be conducted.
During a Friday meeting of the state Racing and Gaming Commission, the agency’s executive director, Tom Sage, said that preparing the casino gambling statutes is “a slow process.”
The regulatory body only recently received a report from a consultant that it had hired to help it write the necessary rules, local news outlets report. This means that the Racing and Gaming Commission is in the very early stages of creating the regulatory framework under which future casinos would operate.
Residents of Nebraska last November approved overwhelmingly a trio of initiatives that authorized casino-style gaming at licensed horse racetracks, cleared the way for the state to regulate its newly expanded gambling industry, and established a 20% rate on gross gaming revenue from the newly legalized activity.
The measures did not explicitly mention sports betting, but Governor Pete Ricketts signed in May a separate measure that authorized that practice, as well. Following these recent events, Nebraska’s six commercial horse racing tracks will be able to offer Las Vegas-style gaming and wagering products, in addition to races.
However, when these will be able to start conducting the newly legalized activities is a question that regulators and legislators still cannot provide an answer to.
License Application Process Months Away
Mr. Sage told fellow commissioners on Friday that he hopes proposed gaming statutes will become available soon.
Once the state gambling and racing regulator reviews and approves the proposed regulations, they will then need approval from Gov. Ricketts and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson. They will next be officially recognized by the Secretary of State’s Office.
This means that the formal casino license application process is likely to start early next year. All of Nebraska’s six licensed horse racetracks have announced plans to add casino facilities when this becomes possible.
Nevada-based gaming and hospitality giant Caesars Entertainment teamed up in July with Columbus Exposition and Racing (CER) to jointly operate a casino and racetrack right off Highway 81 in the Nebraska City of Columbus. The venue will feature a new one-mile horse racing surface and a 40,000-square-foot casino with more than 400 slot machines, 20 table games, and a sportsbook.
The planned new complex is projected to cost $75 million to build and to be complete by late 2022. CER currently operates Live Racing and Simulcasting at Ag Park in Columbus.
In addition, plans have been revealed for new racing tracks with casinos in Bellevue, Gering, Kimball, North Platte, and York.
Source: Rules still being written to add casino gambling in Nebraska, The Edwardsville Intelligencer, September 12, 2021