Nebraska: WarHorse Gaming gets operator license approved for its upcoming Omaha casino

Nebraska: WarHorse Gaming gets operator license approved for its upcoming Omaha casino
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TheNebraska Racing and Gaming Commission approved Wednesday a gaming operator license for the future WarHorse Gaming casino, racing and entertainment complex located at Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, which is expected to open in 2024. However, the decision was not a unanimous one, as Commissioner Jeffrey Galyen expressed criticism in relation to the application for the Ho-Chunk-owned complex. 

Ho-Chunk CEO Lance Morgan and Nebraska Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association CEO Lynne McNally requested the license to be approved Wednesday to secure $700 million in financing and keep on track with the complex’s renovation and expansion, which began in July this year. 

The financing will pay for the WarHorse complexes in Omaha and Lincoln as well as a five-story parking garage and more than 1,400 gaming positions, according to McNally. “We want to be able to hire everybody that wants to work. We have the means to help you get here,” she said, as reported

But Gaylen, who is a real estate attorney in Norfolk, raised concerns about real estate uses, the potential for substantial altering of the racetrack and the commission not reviewing the plans before granting the license. 

McNally responded that the WarHorse casino is critical to ensuring the future of Nebraska’s horseracing industry, which has seen a decline in revenues from simulcasting. “Without the casino, none of this is possible,” she stated, as reported by the cited source.

Gaylen even said at one point he did not think the commission could legally approve granting the license. However, his fellow commissioners did not share his views, with Commission Chairman Dennis Lee saying that the commission is able to approve licenses with numerous conditions. “I think if we did not take action, we will not be complying with our duty as commissioners,” he noted. 

On a 5-1 vote, the commission granted the gaming license contingent upon the developers meeting a number of conditions, with Gaylen as the only dissenting vote. Commissioner Shane Greckel abstained.  

WarHorse Gaming is an entity formed by Ho-Chunk Inc. —the economic development arm of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska— and the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association. Back in September, the Commission granted WarHorse provisional licenses to open casinos in Omaha and Lincoln. 

The parties made history in September with the opening of the temporary WarHorse Casino in Lincoln, marking the first pull of a slot machine in the state. The grand opening ceremony drew hundreds of gaming enthusiasts, seeking to try their luck at the brand-new property.