Nebraska’s first casino has already contributed nearly $800,000 to a state property tax relief fund so far, according to a report from the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission. The figures correspond to the first five weeks of operation of WarHorse Casino in Lincoln, and include $597,854 during the month of October. All in all, the property has produced $1.1 million in tax revenue since it opened in late September.
Officials with the WarHorse Casino expect that gaming revenues will steadily grow as they begin advertising and marketing the temporary facility at the Lincoln Race Course on the southwest edge of Lincoln.
“We’re really pleased with the way it’s been received,” said Lynne McNally, the CEO of the state’s horsemen’s association, as reported by Nebraska Examiner. “It was very important to us to start contributing to that property tax relief fund.”
Additionally, Lance Morgan, the president and CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., which operates the WarHorse Casino, said Monday he thinks that gaming revenue for property tax relief will exceed initial estimates and be around $100 million a year.
WarHorse Lincoln's temporary casino opening in September
“Lincoln has incredible potential,” he told the cited source. “And we’ve just scratched the surface.” According to him, Lincoln doesn’t have the casino gaming tradition of Omaha, which has had legalized casinos in nearby Council Bluffs for years, meaning the opportunity for growth in the Capital City is much greater.
Casinos are required to pay 20% of their gross gambling revenue in state gaming taxes, with 70% of that money going to the state’s property tax credit fund. Another 25% of gaming taxes are split evenly between the host county and host city for a casino.
All in all, WarHorse casino Lincoln has thus far delivered $1.1 million in tax revenue since it opened Sept. 24., of which most has been contributed to the property tax relief fund. The city and county have received equal shares of $142,597 in taxes; while $28,519 in tax revenues have been allocated to a state general fund and a problem gambling fund, respectively.
Reducing Nebraska’s property taxes was one of the leading selling points for legalizing casinos, with supporters projecting that $45.5 million a year would be generated for the tax relief fund, according to the Omaha World-Herald. The fiscal office of the Nebraska Legislature provided even higher estimates, projecting $93 million by 2022-23 if six casinos were open.
WarHorse Lincoln's groundbreaking
Total gaming taxes paid so far have held steady, at between $150,000 and $200,000 per week, although revenue has been limited by space, as WarHorse can only fit only 433 slot machines in its temporary casino, which has no table gaming. A permanent $200 million casino complex is set to open in Lincoln in about two years.
However, WarHorse Lincoln’s status as Nebraska’s sole casino might not last long, with Grand Island’s Fonner Park eyeing launch by year-end. Construction is currently happening inside the concourse of Fonner Park, and while there is no specific date yet as to when the temporary casino will open, officials are aiming to have construction ready by mid-December.
“We are going to have probably around 280 slot machines,” said General Manager for Grand Island Casino Resort Vince Fiala, as reported by NTV abc. “We will have a small snack bar in the area, it will be nicely decorated and clean, and we are just looking to entertain the people of the area.”
The temporary casino will also have kiosks for horse betting. An Elite Casino’s Resort Club and table games including blackjack, craps and roulette will be added in 2023. Fonner Park is looking to hire around 100 employees for the casino. Construction for the permanent resort will start right after next year’s state fair, and officials hope the facility will be ready by early 2025.