Big day for Fonner Park as temporary gaming application approved
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission unanimously approved a casino operator license as well as hours of operations for Grand Island Casino Resort and Fonner Park.
“This afternoon was very significant for the history of Fonner Park,” Fonner Park CEO Chris Kotulak said.
Doors will open at the temporary casino on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at noon following a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The temporary casino is located in the concourse of Fonner Park adjacent to the Van Berg Family Collection and the Nebraska Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame display.
“We are excited to partner with Fonner Park, which held its first race almost 70 years ago,” Dan Kehl, CEO of Elite Casino Resorts said. “It’s very fitting that our temporary casino surrounds the Racing Hall of Fame starting a new chapter in Fonner history. I thank the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission for their leadership and diligence in the process and approval of our application and look forward to a long future between Elite Casino Resorts, Fonner Park, and Grand Island.”
The temporary casino features approximately 300 slot machines, horse betting kiosks, and a snack bar. Guests will be required to present a valid ID to gain entry to the casino in accordance with Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission regulations. The casino will be open Sunday through Thursday 8 a.m. until midnight, Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. until 3 a.m.
Kotulak said casino gambling has become crucial for the existence of thoroughbred horse racing. He added that people who voted on this in 2020 are seeking property tax relief and GI Casino Resort is hoping to follow suit of what we’re seeing with War Horse in Lincoln.
“My mission is to provide for the horses, horsemen, staff and the guests of Fonner Park. The introduction of casino revenue puts us on a path of regenerating a once thriving Thoroughbred racing industry in Nebraska,” said Kotulak.
He added his appreciation to local contractors who provided labor to the construction project, including Chief Industries, Jerry’s Sheet Metal and Middleton Electric.
The temporary casino will operate until the full resort is completed. Construction on the full resort is expected to begin in the fall of 2023 and will feature 650 slot machines, 20 table games, a sports book, a variety of dining options including top floor dining at Ruthie’s Steak & Seafood, live weekend entertainment on the show lounge, sports bar, a 116-room boutique hotel, a salon and spa, gift shop, and indoor and outdoor pool with an expansive deck.
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