Nebraska’s Gambling Watchdog Greenlights Table Games and Acts on Proposed Racetrack in Ogallala

Nebraska's Gambling Watchdog Greenlights Table Games and Acts on Proposed Racetrack in OgallalaOn Friday, the Nebraska Gaming Commission held a meeting, during which it allowed the Grand Island Casino Resort to offer table games. Commissioners also approved a market study to examine the possible impact of opening a new racetrack in western Nebraska. This is the first official step that the gambling regulator takes on Hastings Exposition & Racing Inc.’s request to have its racing license moved from Hastings to Ogallala as of 2024. The study will cost $48k and will be executed with the help of the Innovation Group company for a period of 12 weeks.

This June, Hastings Expositions and Racing submitted their 2024 license application to the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission, revealing plans to move their license from Adams County to Keith County. Under Nebraska’s law, Hastings can ask the regulator to move its license only once to a county with no racetrack.

Brian Jorde, a representative for the Hastings company, explained that a comprehensive study would be needed to determine if there will be any negative consequences of the move, such as concentrated or increased competition. Jorde said that the transfer of Hastings’ racing license is unlikely to have a negative impact on the industry because the company wants to move into a brand-new market, which is nearly 200 miles away from the market in which it currently operates.

Previously, the company invested a lot of money and effort into its racino project in Hastings, located 17 to 20 miles away from the Grand Island racino. The planned new racetrack in Ogallala would be located near Lake McConaughy, close to the neighboring states of Colorado and Wyoming.

Grand Island Casino Become the First Gambling Venue Allowed to Offer Table Games in the State

Elite Casino Resorts, the company that owns the Grand Island Casino, revealed its plans to collaborate with the Hastings for the new racino. Jorde explained that such a partnership would be mutually beneficial. The decision to relocate to Ogallala is also prompted by other communities’ willingness to host racinos, including Kimball, Gering, North Platte, Norfolk, and Bellevue. State Senator Mike Jacobson of North Platte told commissioners that his community still intends to apply to host a racino after examining the potential socio-economic impacts of having such a facility in the region.

At its Friday meeting, the Nebraska gambling regulator also allowed the Grand Island Casino Resort to offer table games. This is the first time Nebraska’s gambling watchdog has approved table games. Sharon Haselhoff, the regional vice president for Elite Casino Resorts, revealed that eight gaming tables were already ready to launch, only pending final commission approval.

Nebraska’s gambling watchdog allowed the Grand Island Casino Resort to install five blackjack tables, one roulette, one Texas Hold’em, and one craps table. Commissioners also gave the Grand Island Casino Resort permission to add 46 more slot machines, bringing their total number to 337. Tom Sage, the commission’s executive director, stated that he would undertake one final walkthrough before the games went live. The commission’s chair, Dennis Lee, said that allowing the Grand Island to be the first gambling venue to offer table games was the most appropriate decision.