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Community expresses mixed feelings on proposed horse racing tracks

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 10:27 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Back in the fall of 2020, Nebraska voters easily passed the legalization of casino gambling, but only at horse tracks. Now, companies are hoping to build new horse racing tracks and casinos in communities around the state.

Friday afternoon, the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission held a public meeting. The room was packed with people wanting to be heard. Some were in favor of building new race tracks as economic drivers. Others said they’re not needed.

A good bit of developers said they’re hoping to build race tracks since it allows them to build casinos, too.

Community members from Bellevue, Norfolk, North Platte, Gering and York presented ideas for new horse racing tracks before the commission.

“Look for economic development of projects that help the city and help our region,” said one supporter.

“In an ethical way that would not only impact our community positively, but the entire racing industry,” another supporter told 10/11.

People opposing the ideas behind new tracks had other feelings like one developer of a competing casino, “What I’m worried about is if we put one in Bellevue, it’s going to clip off just enough where it’s going to clip off our financing. It’s going to make us come out with two weak competitors, and in the end, it’s going to be a pretty bad mistake.”

One man used the analogy of a pie to say why he thinks Nebraska isn’t the place for new tracks, “If you look at that pie as gaming dollars or racing dollars, it’s not going to work. Somebody’s going to lose. There’s just not enough in the pie to support ten kids.”

The company called Freedom Bay displayed their plans for a new entertainment facility in York, which would include not only a race track and casino but also a hotel, a restaurant and a golf course.

“We think that our location makes sense for a live horse racing track and a training track, as well as being a central home to the racing industry in Nebraska,” said a Freedom Bay representative.

Those in support of the potential track in York said its location is ideal for Nebraskans and new visitors to the state. “I appreciate a facility easy to get into and out of without having to deal with a lot of traffic. This is going to be not even five minutes from the interstate and I-80,” said another Freedom Bay representative.

Before the commission can make final decisions, it’s strategic planning and construction committees will review the proposals before approval of any of the tracks.

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