Temporary Grand Island Casino Could be Open by October

Nebraska State Seal With Gavel And Casino Background
Grand Island’s temporary casino facility hopes to open this fall.

In a statement, Fonner Park Chief Executive Officer Chris Kotulak said that he expects the temporary facility to be in operation before the end of the year but not until close to October 2022.

According to Kotulak, the temporary site will be built on the Fonner Park campus and will be undertaken by Baxter Construction of Des Moines, Iowa which is also the contractor of the permanent casino.

Casino Will Increase Purses at Fonner Park

Having the casino operate as soon as possible will increase the purses at Fonner Park since a percentage of the gross gaming revenue will be allocated to the purses of the horsemen. The percentage is included in the agreement between Fonner and Elite Casino Resorts, the operator of the Grand Island casino.

Kotulak said that he hopes that casino revenues will help double the purses of horsemen in a year or two. That may have to wait a little bit however because the temporary casino will only accommodate 200 slot machines, as compared to 600 for the permanent facility, so while horsemen purses will improve with the temporary casino, the big effect not be felt until the permanent one is in place.

The construction of the permanent casino facility at Fonner Park will not begin until after this year’s Nebraska State Fair in August. Kotulak said that he expects the construction to work around two Nebraska State Fairs and expects the permanent building to be up and running by 2025. Once it is complete, the temporary facility will be turned into a storage facility for the casino.

Bill to Restrict New Racinos Advances

Grand Island’s announcement comes at the heels of a new bill seeking to impose restrictions on new Racinos in Nebraska. State senators advanced Senate Bill 876 to final reading earlier this week. The bill would require the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission to hold up proposals for new race tracks and casinos until the socio-economic impact and statewide market condition studies are finished.

Under the bill, only the six Nebraska counties which have current licensed horse racing tracks – Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus, Grand Island, South Sioux City, and Hastings, will be permitted to build a casino. The bill comes as more counties have been proposing plans to build their own race tracks and casinos which could eventually lead to market saturation.

Five out of the state’s six existing race tracks are now moving forward with their casino construction plans, with only the proposal of Hastings’ Adams County Fairgrounds voted down during a City Council meeting last March 5th. Grand City is set to be the first to open, with its temporary facility.