In the first of three votes, Nebraska lawmakers okayed a bill which, if successful, would permit casinos to be developed in the six counties that already have licensed horseracing tracks.
This would bring commercial gaming facilities to Douglas, Lancaster, Adams, Dakota, Hall and Platte, all counties in eastern and central Nebraska.
Any operator wishing to construct a casino elsewhere would have to wait on a detailed impact assessment from the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, which, based on its findings, may deny applicants a licence. This assessment is due by 1 January 2025.
According to Republican Senator Tom Briese, Chair of the General Affairs Committee, this measure is designed to balance the needs and concerns of developers and communities.
In November 2020, voters overwhelmingly approved measures to allow casinos at state-licensed horseracing tracks, with approximately 65% of voters backing three ballot initiatives that effectively legalised commercial casino gambling in Nebraska.
But the actual implementation of Nebraskans’ will has progressed slowly. However, with this bill’s first-round approval secure, the finish line is finally in sight. While this may come as welcome news to many, the Cornhusker state’s existing tribal casinos will unlikely find it cause for celebration.
This further follows on from proposals published by the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission last November, which stated that companies intending to open a casino at a racetrack in the state will need to pay $1m upfront for a licence valid for 20 years.