Work finally set to begin on temporary casino in Grand Island

Fremont Tribune
Work finally set to begin on temporary casino in Grand Island
Wild Casino

WarHorse Casino will have the racetrack casino market in Nebraska all to itself for a little longer than expected.

Grand Island Casino Resort announced Monday that plans to remodel a portion of the Fonner Park clubhouse to house a temporary casino there have been approved, and it plans to start construction immediately.

Fonner Park had hoped to start construction on its temporary casino once the Nebraska State Fair ended on Labor Day and have it open by Thanksgiving, but the delay in getting construction approval from the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission means the opening will be pushed back several weeks.

"We are now shooting for an opening prior to Christmas," said Chris Kotulak, Fonner Park CEO, noting that's dependent on supply chain issues not worsening.

The temporary casino will be located in the concourse area at Fonner Park. It will have 300 slot machines, kiosks for wagering on live and simulcast horse races, a small area with a snack bar, and a club for its operator, Elite Casinos.

Fonner Park said table games, including blackjack, craps and roulette, will be added to the temporary casino space at some point next year.

Construction on the new casino resort won't start until after next year's State Fair wraps up, and it's not expected to be open until late 2024 or early 2025.

Grand Island Casino Resort will offer 650 slot machines, multiple table games, a sportsbook, 116-room hotel, several dining options, a luxury spa, indoor and outdoor pools and show lounge.

WarHorse opened its temporary casino with 433 slot machines at Lincoln Race Course on Sept. 24. According to a report from the Racing and Gaming Commission, the casino generated nearly $286,000 in taxes in its first seven days, an amount that suggests gamblers may have wagered as much as $14 million during that time.

At least two other temporary casinos are planned as the state's licensed horse tracks move forward with wagering approved by voters in 2020. WarHorse plans to open a temporary or transitional casino with 800 slot machines at Horsemen's Park in Omaha sometime in the spring. Caesars Entertainment also plans to open a temporary casino in Columbus with 250 slot machines, but no timeline has been announced.

The projected opening date for the casino resort at WarHorse Lincoln is November 2024. Plans call for a casino with more than 1,100 slot machines, 100 table games, a sportsbook and both live and simulcast horse racing. The complex will also include several dining options, including a steakhouse, sports bar and café. Plans also call for a 200-room hotel and a three-story parking garage.

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