Could generate about $60.7M in revenue

Nebraska: Bellevue mayor publicly endorses casino and racetrack plan

Reading time 1:53 min

Bellevue Mayor Rusty Hike backed on Tuesday plans for Bellevue and Sarpy County to host a new horse racing track and casino. According to the Mayor, the proposed Bellevue Downs Racetrack & Casino would bring significant economic benefits to the region, helping the city capture revenues from Iowa's casinos while fitting into a planned entertainment district that includes a water park.

In 2020, voters approved a ballot measure that ties casino development to racing licenses in Nebraska. As a result, any party interested in constructing a casino in the state, besides the current holders of racing licenses, is required to first secure state authorization for a racetrack.

Hike stressed that the casino and racetrack in Bellevue could generate more revenue than estimated by a state consultant, thus benefiting the state, the city, and the county.

The report prepared for the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission estimates that Bellevue would generate about $60.7 million in revenue, but would impact the profits of the WarHorse casino, currently under construction in Omaha, by $24.7 million.

Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc., the parent company of WarHorse, mentioned that state legislation prevents the approval of new casinos at racetracks if they negatively affect the existing market.

However, John Hassett, a keno operator and applicant for the Bellevue license, disagrees, arguing that the project would increase the state's overall revenue and would not directly compete with thoroughbred tracks, focusing instead on quarter horses.

The quarter horse racetrack will be a unique draw,” he told “We expect it to be very popular with the public because quarter horse racing provides a faster-paced race experience.”

According to Hasset, a state report indicates there’s a pool of 500 to 1,000 quarter horses bred in Nebraska, sufficient to create a specific market for racing.

However, the state report suggests Nebraska does not need more racetracks beyond the existing six licensed tracks in the state: Legacy Downs in Lincoln, Fonner Park in Grand Island, Horsemen's Park in Omaha, Atokad in South Sioux City, FairPlay Park in Hastings, and Columbus Exposition and Racing in Columbus.

But for Mayor Hike, the Bellevue proposal would work as the ideal complement to an indoor and outdoor water park planned to operate year-round in an entertainment district to be located at highways 75 and 34. He also highlighted the potential of the racetrack, casino, and water park in attracting hotels, restaurants, and other entertainment options. “Bellevue and Sarpy County should not be denied the benefits of hosting a facility,” Hike said.

He emphasizes Bellevue's geographical position along the border with Iowa. The city’s location “provides a unique opportunity to pull revenue from southwest Iowa, northwest Missouri, Cass County, Nebraska, and Sarpy County, which has a population over 200,000,” the Mayor said, as per

Local authorities claim that other market analyses estimate the revenue from Bellevue's racetrack and casino between $102 million and $112 million, reinforcing the economic viability of the project.

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