Ho-Chunk, Inc.’s newest division WarHorse Gaming, LLC, is moving forward with plans to bring casino gaming to three existing horse racing tracks in the state of Nebraska.
WarHorse Gaming, LLC in partnership with the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) are discussing next steps to add casinos at horseracing tracks in Omaha, Lincoln and South Sioux City.
WarHorse Gaming, LLC will be responsible for overall gaming operations at Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, Lincoln Racecourse in Lincoln, and Atokad Downs in South Sioux City. (In 2013, the Winnebago Tribal economic arm Ho-Chunk purchased Atokad Downs.) The Nebraska HBPA will continue to voersee horse racing itself.
A timeline is still in the works, though WarHorse envisions making progress on the gaming expansions in the latter half of 2021 with full casino operations up and running in 2022.
Brian Chamberlain was recently named Executive Director of WarHorse to lead the expansion. Ho-Chunk, Inc. subsidiary Blue Earth Marketing will serve as agency of record for all three casinos.
Ho-Chunk, Inc. is responsible for successfully lobbying for the legal right to expand casino gaming at tracks. Ho-Chunk previously funded efforts to collect 475,000 signatures in support, and in so doing, put the question before voters in the November 2020 general election.
“Every state who touches Nebraska has some form of casino gambling, and so every state considers Nebraska a target demographic for their business,” said Lance Morgan, President and CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc., in a video posted by Keep the Money in Nebraska, a campaign supporting the gaming initiatives that voters in Nebraska approved Tuesday. “If we can just keep some of that money home, some of those taxes home, and some of those jobs and economic activity here, we’re going to improve.”
“Since the Council Bluffs casinos have opened, they’ve brought in $11 billion in revenue—billion—and about $9 billion of that has come right from Nebraska,” Morgan continued. “To be honest, that makes me a little bit angry; I think that it’s obvious to everybody involved that they’re there to exploit Nebraska, to take money from Nebraska, to take jobs from Nebraska. And so I think it’s crystal clear that if you could move those gaming operations into Nebraska, we would get the tax dollars, we would get the jobs, and we would get the economic activities.”
Morgan’s vision will now become a reality — through WarHorse Gaming.
A recent Keep the Money in Nebraska economic impact study found that once the casinos are up and running, racetrack gaming in Nebraska will be associated with more than 4,600 jobs and $320 million of the gross state product. They will contribute $40.5 million in state and local government revenues in addition to $65 million in gambling taxes.
While those 4,600 jobs would be directly created by the gaming enterprises, Morgan sees widespread benefits.
“There are also going to be a lot of indirect jobs that are going to be created,” he said, including “the people who work with the gaming operations, the vendors, the horse trainers, the horse breeders, the farmers who support these operations—there’s going to be an economic ripple effect throughout the entire state.”