Harrah`s Nebraska got an early Christmas gift following the state`s nod for the casino operator to begin constructing its temporary and permanent casinos. Caesars Entertainment, Harrah`s casino developer, plans to finish construction of the temporary and permanent casinos in March 2023 and March 2024, respectively.
On Wednesday, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission voted in favor of Harrah`s Nebraska to have a provisional gaming license. The casino will begin operating once the gaming spaces are ready and the gaming regulators have signed off on the operations at each property.
The vote cleared Caesars to build a new temporary casino at the Platte County Agricultural Park, east of Columbus. Meanwhile, the permanent casino will be built northwest of the downtown area, formerly the Wishbones events site that closed in May 2021.
The senior vice president of racetrack casino operations, Joe Morris, said that the construction of the casino buildings would begin in a few weeks. The commencement of the project depends on the weather.
The move to build a casino in Nebraska is barely two years since a ballot referendum passed. Voters supported the decision to allow racetracks to revamp into casinos with table games, slot machines, and sports betting in November 2020.
By having a horse racetrack at Agricultural Park, Columbus qualified to have a casino through Nebraska`s 2022 legalization of commercial gaming. The action at the horse racetrack has declined over the years. In fact, there are only 11 days of scheduled races on the track in 2023.
Yet, the city continually invests in the track to keep it open. Fortunately, with the legalization of commercial gaming, the city`s investment in the racetrack will finally pay off.
Harrah`s will open its temporary casino at Agricultural Park`s exhibit hall. According to Caesars, the building will require minor renovations. The downstairs floor will host 250 slot machines.
Meanwhile, the permanent casino will be four air miles from Agricultural Park. The 2020 gaming law requires the racetrack to continue being a racetrack. As such, Harrah`s Nebraska will build a new one-mile horse racetrack and hold live racing events starting in 2024.
The $75 million casino will feature a 40,000-square-foot casino holding 20 table games, 400 slot machines, and a retail sportsbook. The sportsbook will have on-site oddsmakers and self-service betting kiosks. Since there is no law allowing online bets, the sportsbook will be limited to retail sports betting.
Most casinos go hand-in-hand with hotels. Harrah`s Nebraska is no different. However, a separate entity, Convergence, LLC, is partnering with Marriott International to build and operate a hotel. Convergence owns the land where Harrah`s Nebraska will stand.
Columbus Exposition and Racing Inc. Chose Caesars Entertainment
Columbus Exposition and Racing Inc. chose Caesars to develop its casino in July 2021. The non-profit company focuses on advancing horse racing. It will contribute to the building of the $75 million permanent casino.
Once operational, the Columbus casino will share 20 percent of its gross gaming revenue with Nebraska. This tax income will go to the state`s Property Tax Credit Fund. This will not be the first casino in Nebraska, as WarHorse Casino Lincoln opened in September this year.