Ho-Chunk, Inc Launches New Gaming Division For Nebraska Racetrack Casinos

Closeup of Person Counting Money With a Casino Background
The economic development unit of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska has announced the launching of WarHorse Gaming LLC to operate and manage the three Nebraska casinos it plans to open next year.

Said WarHorse Gaming executive director Brian Chamberlain:

“This is an exciting time for Nebraskans. Our team is working tirelessly to bring first-class gaming and entertainment to the state. Though there is still a great deal of work to be done, we’re excited for the chance to bring a new industry to the state, and with it, an entirely new source of tax revenue and career opportunities.”

Added NHBPA executive vice president Lynne McNally:

“We are thrilled to partner with a world-class organization like Ho-Chunk, Inc. It’s been a very long process getting to this point, with a lot more yet to do, but we’re very much looking forward to what this will do for Nebraska.”

Partnership with NHBPA

Ho-Chunk, Inc. says that WarHorse Gaming will partner with the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA) for the planning and development of Nebraska casinos at the three state-licensed horseracing tracks in Omaha, Lincoln, and South Sioux City.

Under the agreement, WarHorse will be responsible for the overall gaming operations in the three Nebraska casinos while the NHBPA will continue to be the overseer of all horse racing events at the tracks. WarHorse management anticipates that expanded gaming will be available in the latter part of 2021 with full casino operations commencing in 2022.

Nebraska Initiative 430

The Plans are taking shape now after 65.01% of voters approved Nebraska Initiative 430 or the Authorizing Gambling at Racetracks Initiative which was on the ballot in Nebraska as an initiated state status on November 3, 2020. At the time of election, the only form of gaming allowed in Nebraska were the state lottery, licensed raffles, and bingo.

Initiative 430 authorizes gambling at licensed racetracks with licensed gaming operators. The Initiative established the Nevada Gaming Commission to enact the rules to license gaming operators and regulate the state’s gambling industry. Under the measure, anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited from playing on gambling devices or participate in gambing at the racetracks.

Ho-Chunk Ready To Build Three Casinos After Nebraska Approval

Split Image of Four Casino Games
With Nebraska voters solidly approving Las Vegas-style gambling at the state’s horse tracks during Tuesday’s election, Ho-Chunk Inc. says it is ready to spend $300M to build three casinos at horse tracks in South Sioux City, Omaha, and Lincoln.

Ho-Chunk, which bought Atokad Park at South Sioux City in 2016, joined forces with the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association to collect enough signatures to place the measures in the ballot of Tuesday’s US Elections. They were successful this time around, after failing to do so two years ago. The horsemen’s group will partner with WarHorse in managing the proposed Nebraska casinos.

Said Mike Newin, CEO and GM of Horseman’s Park Lincoln Race track:

“The casinos are going to employ over 4600 people, but we can’t turn a slot machine on or take a sports wager of playing a blackjack game until the gaming commission is established and regulations are ready to go.”

Finalizing the details and passing the legislation will take some time. But that’s just formality. Getting the approval was the biggest hurdle. And it passed that with flying colors.

65% Approval

65% of voters said YES to three ballot initiatives that would amend Nebraska’s constitution to allow casinos as the state’s six licensed horse tracks, with some the revenues to be collected from the casinos going to property tax relief and local governments.

Proponents of the measures have long argued that Nebraskans cross the state border to gamble at casinos in Iowa and other nearby states, and spend over $500M in doing so. By allowing Nebraska casinos at the state’s race tracks, that revenue can be captured and its benefits enjoyed by the state.

But Gov. Pete Ricketts, former Nebraska Football team coach Tom Osborne, and other opponents of the initiative warned that the approval of Nebraska casinos would lead to more bankruptcies, crime, and other social ills that are associated with gambling addiction.

Ready to Move Forward

Ho-Chunk Inc, which is the economic entity of the Winnebago Tribe, revealed that they have already formed a new group called WarHorse Gaming LLC, which will manage the proposed casinos. According to Ho-Chunk CEO Lance Morgan, WarHorse was just formed this week.

If all goes well, Morgan said that construction will commence next spring. The tracks in Lincoln and Omaha already have facilities and could start gaming after six months. On the other hand, Morgan estimates that it would take around nine months to build a Nebraska casino is Atokad, which only has a race track right now.

Additional live racing dates will be added at the race tracks as part of the expanded gambling plan. In recent years, Ho-Chunk held just one date of live racing at Atokad which is the minimum to retain a state license. However, with the expected boom in gambling which will be brought about by the Nebraska casinos, they are expanding the schedule.