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Western Nebraska casino possible as plans announced for a racing license in Ogallala

By: - June 20, 2023 6:00 pm

Slot machines on the casino floor at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, Florida. Five Nebraska communities want permission to build casinos, in addition to the state’s six horse-racing tracks. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — Western Nebraska may soon offer casino gambling with a move announced Tuesday to transfer a racing license in Hastings to Ogallala.

Hastings Exposition and Racing, Inc., which possesses the racing license, announced it has submitted an application to the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission surrounding the move. 

Brian Jorde, spokesman for the Hastings company, said they are excited for the commission to “get that teed up and approved so we can get going.”

The Hastings company said it plans to establish a multi-track quarter horse racing circuit and partner with Elite Casino Resorts. Elite Casino owns the Grand Island Casino resort and would invest $100 million in the racetrack and casino — these are referred to as ”racinos.”

The 174-acre site would be called the Lake Mac Casino Resort and Racetrack, potentially capitalizing on tourism to Lake McConaughy.

Jorde said the move is “doing everyone a favor” by moving away from the Grand Island racino and spreading out into the Panhandle.

“Western Nebraska always gets shut out,” Jorde said. “Our plan is to get this up and going in Ogallala and then get up and going in Gering and have a Quarter Horse circuit between the two locations.”

Hastings Exposition and Racing, operated by Brian Becker, spent much of last year trying to encourage the Hastings City Council to approve plans for a racino on the north edge of town, according to News Channel Nebraska.

The council rejected those plans in March 2022 but approved an altered plan in November without a game partner. The Chickasaw Nation was originally proposed as a gaming partner.

Nebraska voters overwhelmingly approved casino gambling in 2020 for the state’s licensed racetracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus, Grand Island, Hastings and South Sioux City. Other communities, such as Kimball, Gering, North Platte, Norfolk and Bellevue, had expressed interest in racinos, too.

Later this week, WarHorse Casino Lincoln will offer sports betting for the first time in the state.

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach rejoins the Nebraska Examiner after studying abroad in Antigua, Guatemala, following a yearlong Examiner internship. His coverage focus areas have included politics and government, health and well-being and higher education.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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