"No longer interested" in either application

Nebraska: Chickasaw Nation pulling out of partnership for proposed racino projects in North Platte and Gering

Rendering for the proposed project in North Platte.
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The Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma is pulling out of a partnership for two previously unveiled “racino” projects in North Platte and Gering. The tribe had initially shown interest in participating in the two horsetrack-casino developments through its Global Gaming Nebraska subsidiary.

The tribe has confirmed to the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission that it is no longer involved in the projects, reports The North Platte Telegraph. Executive Director Tom Sage revealed Friday that Global Gaming told them about their withdrawal via an email, which was read into the record at the panel’s Thursday meeting.

Global Gaming said in the statement that it is “no longer interested” in the applications for either location. The plans also involved the family of quarter horse owner Brian Becker, and proposed oval racetracks five-eighths of a mile long at sites between North Platte’s two Interstate 80 interchanges and on the south edge of Gering, opening the door to accompanying casinos.

The tribal gaming subsidiary, which operates horsetracks and casinos in Texas and Oklahoma, had also partnered with the Beckers on a proposed all-new track and casino on U.S. Highway 34-281 in north Hastings. However, the project’s permit was shot down by the Hastings City Council through a negative 4-3 vote on March 15.

According to the Telegraph, Sage said casinos weren’t included in either the North Platte or Gering applications, neither of which has been granted. The petition initiatives approved by Nebraska voters in 2020 state casinos may be built and operated only at licensed horsetracks.

North Platte Exposition and Racing -a separate entity created last summer for the proposed project there and primarily linked to the Becker family- won a conditional use permit for its racino proposal in late 2021. Another Chickasaw subsidiary -Sovereign Properties Holdco LLC of Ada, Oklahoma- now owns the planned site between I-80 and East Walker Road, having purchased the 77.25-acre parcel on June 6.

Meanwhile, the Gering Planning Commission had voted 6-2 last September in favor of a conditional use permit for Scottsbluff Exposition and Racing -another separate entity linked to the Becker family- for its racino project there. The Gering City Council later voted in December to send a letter of support for the plan, although it didn’t vote on its permit at that time.

But in an unfavorable move for the Gering and North Platte projects, the Nebraska Legislature passed a bill in April that puts a moratorium on any new operations until the Racing and Gaming Commission completes studies of the horse racing market, the casino gambling market, and the socioeconomic impact of tracks and casinos. The deadline for those studies is Jan. 1, 2025.

This means that racinos will be initially limited to the six Nebraska cities with existing tracks -Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus, Grand Island, South Sioux City; and Hastings, which voted down the project-. This may explain why the Chickasaw Nation’s interest in the North Platte and Gering projects has waned. It is unclear yet if the tribe will seek to revive efforts in Hastings.

In addition to North Platte and Gering, other communities -including Ogallala, Bellevue, York and Norfolk- had also shown an interest in building new racetracks with casinos. Despite the setback imposed by the moratorium, some of these cities are still committed to pushing ahead in the event of a new license allowance.

The Ogallala City Council and Keith County Board of Commissioners approved in late June plans for an Elite Casino Resorts $100 million project called Lake Mac Casino Resort & Racetrack. The venue would be built at Lake McConaughy, a popular summer destination for Colorado tourists.

Elite is the same gaming company that is building a racino at Fonner Park in Grand Island. The proposed project for Ogallala is similar in size and scope to the Grand Island one, where a temporary venue with about 300 slots machines is expected sometime in the fall.