The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission is facing a crucial decision about expanding racetrack casinos in the state. Various cities, including Fremont, want to join existing racetracks in offering casino gaming. The commission is now evaluating the feasibility and necessity of this expansion.

Currently, only licensed racetracks in Lincoln, Grand Island, Omaha, Columbus, South Sioux City, and Hastings can have casinos. However, the proposed “Lake Mac Casino Resort and Racetrack” in Ogallala wants to move its racing license from Hastings. This has sparked a heated debate within the commission, with concerns about the potential impact and viability of the expansion.

During a recent commission meeting, doubts were raised about the adequacy of the required market study by The Innovation Group. Representatives from Warhorse Gaming and the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association expressed their concerns and called for a new study to be conducted. They doubted if the study complied with legislative requirements.

In response to these concerns, a committee was formed to review the legislative requirements and decide if the current study should be supplemented or replaced. The aim is to provide the commission with all the necessary information to make an informed decision on the racetrack casino expansion.

As a result, the commission has postponed its decision on transferring the racing license to Ogallala until the market study is updated or redone. The attorney representing the proposed racetrack argued that the market study only required an “initial issuance” of a report, which has been completed. However, the commission believes further analysis is necessary before making a final decision.

The Nebraska Examiner, a news outlet in the States Newsroom network, provided unbiased coverage of the meeting and reported on the commission’s proceedings. The Nebraska Examiner maintains its editorial independence and is committed to delivering impartial coverage of significant local news that affects Nebraska residents.

Since the state’s first casino opened in 2022, the commission has grown significantly, increasing its staff from two to 25 full-time employees. This growth reflects the rising demand for regulated casinos in Nebraska. The commission acknowledges the efforts of its executive director, Tom Sage, who recently requested retirement, in successfully transitioning the agency from governing horse racing to regulating casinos.

While the commission deliberates on racetrack casino expansion, concerns have also been raised about the purchase of semi-automatic rifles for casino security. Some question the necessity and appropriateness of such weapons in a casino setting, leading to further discussions within the commission.

Additionally, the proposed racetrack in Fremont, along with Bellevue, Norfolk, North Platte, Kimball, and York, wants to open a casino. These cities hope to benefit economically from hosting a racetrack casino. However, the commission recognizes the importance of conducting a comprehensive market study to assess the potential impact on existing racetracks and the gambling industry in Nebraska.

As the commission considers the racetrack casino expansion, it remains committed to maintaining editorial independence and conducting due diligence for a fair and transparent decision-making process. The motion to review legislative requirements and determine the need for a revised or additional market study shows the commission’s dedication to making an informed choice.

Undoubtedly, the commission’s decision on racetrack casino expansion has significant implications for Nebraska’s gambling industry. As the debate continues, it is clear that the commission’s priority is to protect the state’s interests and its residents while fostering economic growth and development. The commission’s thorough approach to this decision is crucial in ensuring a well-informed and responsible outcome for all parties involved.