Nebraska casino gambling rules pass first hurdle

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Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 4:40 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The progress continues in the rollout of casino gambling in Nebraska.

Friday morning the Racing and Gaming Commission officially approved a set of rules. It said those rules will likely never be done, changing and adapting as time moves on but having the basics in place is a big step.

In total, the board approved a set of 678 rules, which will act as a guidebook for casino-licensed racetracks that have applications out in Nebraska. These rules firmed up just over a year after Nebraska voters approved casino gambling on the November 2020 ballot.

In attendance at Friday’s meeting were multiple groups who planned to bring casinos to Nebraska. They testified in support of the rules.

“The Commission started working on them months and months ago,” said Lynne McNally with Nebraska Horsemen’s. “They’re comprehensive and extensive with an eye towards security and integrity.”

The rules outline most aspects of casino gambling; From licensing requirements, a 20-year one will initially cost $1 million, to on-site security and excluding things like smoking on the floor and more. It’s also built to continue being amended over time.

“There’s another whole layer of regulations,” said Tom Sage the executive director of the Racing and Gambling Commission. “Commission policies that we hope to have out next month so that’s just another document and another layer of regulations that goes into gaming.”

Opposition came from a few different perspectives. One testifier said the rules and the process was rushed. The first draft was released about a month ago, and not enough voices, outside of casinos, had been taken into consideration.

The commission did emphasize that right now their focus will be the roll-out of the applications they have on file. That included Warhorse Casino, now to be partially renamed Legacy Downs, planned for south Lincoln, but it is likely that more applications are to come.

“There’s no deadline on applying,” said Dennis Lee with the Racing and Gaming Commission. “There could be more, but I would think at this point we know there’s going to be the five and we’ve just held their applications on a holding pattern in order for us to get to this point on our checklist of priorities.”

With the stamp of approval from the Racing and Gaming Commission, it will move next to the Nebraska Attorney General’s and Governor’s offices for review. Then it will be passed onto the Secretary of State for approval. After approval, the rules will go into effect five days later.

Right now, it’s unclear how long that timeline will take to get gambling officially started in 2022.

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