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Nebraska: Hastings City Council votes down proposed Chickasaw's racino

Rendering for the proposed racino in Hastings, Nebraska.
2022-03-15
Reading time 1:51 min

Hastings has said “no” to a proposed racetrack and casino in the northwest part of the city in Nebraska. The City Council voted down the racino project, pitched by Oklahoma’s Chickasaw Nation, which required a six-vote supermajority to move forward.

The Hasting City Council voted 4-4, thus denying a pair of requests which would have paved the way for the project, reports News Channel Nebraska. The developer's rezoning request and conditional use permit failed to reach the target.

The venue was set to be located on the northwest corner of HWY 281 and 42nd street. This was among the points that raised the most concerns between council members, including councilman Chuck Rosenberg, who voted against the racino because of the proposed site.

“The casino is a destination spot," Rosenberg said. "If you guys were on the bypass, you could probably get this passed right through but you’re insistent on that location and I think you’re making a big mistake.” The councilman cited as a contrasting case Council Bluffs, where there are “no residents around any of the three casinos there.”

According to the cited source, Rosenberg’s concerns echoed those of protesting parties who claimed the project would deter future residential growth, as well as lower area property values. Opposition letters from citizens outweighed those in favor of the proposal, with the arguments against the location as the most common.

The rejection follows a voting session of the Hasting Planning Commission on February 15, with members voting 4-3 to recommend disapproval of the two items, which led to some council members to follow suit. City staff had also recommended not approving the application, reports Hastings Tribune.

Developer Prairie Thunder Hastings, backed by the Chickasaw Nation, estimated 650,000 annual visitors. Representatives for the company said they would invest $40 million in the project and hire 150 Nebraska workers, while also forecasting more than $70 million in state property tax relief over 10 years.

Hastings was among six Nebraska cities selected for a racino after voters in the state approved the construction of casinos at existing horse track licenses in 2020. The other five communities -Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus, Grand Island, South Sioux City- have already announced their own plans for casinos.

Earlier this month, a bill requiring impact studies for additional casinos passed a Legislature committee. The proposal seeks to prevent a surge of new casinos through the state as more counties seek to develop their own gambling venues.

Under the proposed legislation, developers seeking to build a casino in another part of the Cornhusker State would have to wait for the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission to conduct a detailed study looking at the potential impact on the state. Approval of licenses would be based on the results of this analysis. The study would be due by January 1, 2025.

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