First State-Licensed Casino in Nebraska Opens Its Doors

  • A crowd of hundreds visited the Warhorse Casino Lincoln on its opening day
  • Officials hope the casino will increase revenue in the region and boost horse racing
  • The casino is just a temporary facility, with a permanent one to open in about 18 months
  • Nebraskans voted in 2020 in favor of allowing casinos at the six state-licensed racetracks
Ribbon cutting
Nebraska’s first state-licensed casino has opened its doors. [Image:]

A big boost to the region

A state-licensed casino has opened for business in Nebraska for the first time in history.

More than 100 people lined up outside the property

The WarHorse Casino Lincoln opened its doors on Saturday morning following a short private ceremony at 10am. More than 100 people lined up outside the property to await the opening. Hundreds more people arrived at the facility throughout the day, eventually prompting a need for overflow parking spaces.

The casino is a collaboration between the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) and the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. Lori Thomas, chief operating officer for the NHBPA, commented on the opening. She deemed it a dream come true and asserted that the facility would help to bring revenue and entertainment to the people of Nebraska.

Officials hope the new casino will also give a much-needed boost to horse racing in the state, with plans in place to significantly increase the number of racing days at the Lincoln racetrack where the casino is situated.

Just for now

The WarHorse Casino Lincoln is a temporary gambling facility, holding about 850 people and containing approximately 400 slot machines.

a hotel, event space, and numerous restaurants

A permanent casino is expected to open in the same location in about 18 months. Costing in the region of $200m, it will feature 1,300 gaming machines, table games, a sportsbook, as well as a hotel, event space, and numerous restaurants.  

Developers also expect to open a temporary WarHorse casino in Omaha, Nebraska in 2023. WarHorse plans to spend over $300m to develop a permanent casino at Horsemen’s Park in the city. The casino operator also plans to do something similar in South Sioux City.

A long time coming

Lance Morgan of Ho-Chunk Inc., the parent company of WarHorse, mentioned the significance of the Nebraska casino license. The company CEO and president said: “We’ve worked on it for years, and to see it come to fruition it’s almost surreal. Like, I’m having trouble believing it.”

It was only on Friday that the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission officially issued a license to the WarHorse Casino. The commission’s vote was unanimous.

The casino’s grand opening took place almost two years after Nebraskans voted in favor of allowing casinos at the six licensed horse racing tracks in the state. The subsequent legislative bill only received final approval in May 2022.

Before a casino gets the green light, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission needs to look at the potential impact such a facility would have on the local community, other gambling facilities, and the horse racing industry. As a result of the opening of the Lincoln casino, Nebraskans will no longer have to cross the border to engage in casino gambling.

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