n Tuesday, the Omaha City Council voted 6-1 to approve a plan to provide $17.5 million in tax incentives for the development of a $220 million casino project from WarHorse Gaming Omaha, on the Horsemen’s Park property.
The Ho-Chunk Inc.subsidiary’s casino will be located on 62nd and Q streets, and it will be among the first casinos in the state that was authorized by voters who chose to expand gambling across Nebraska at sites where horse racing takes place.
Developers argued the project would "not be feasible" without tax increment financing (TIF), saying the $220 million was "at-risk" money. However, opponents wondered why a casino that is set to make millions needed a tax break.
In opposition to the TIF plan, former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub said: "We oppose the notion that taxpayers of this community should be forced to subsidize the project when sponsors paid millions heralding this opportunity by virtue of amending our state's constitution."
TIF allows developers to cover expenses in areas deemed blighted by borrowing against the future increased property tax revenue. The loan is repaid over a period of years while the developer pays a lower property tax rate based partially on the value of the undeveloped property.
Developers have agreed to pay about $6 million on widening Q Street to improve storm sewers.
Council member Aimee Melton said she supported TIF only because developers were asking for the tax break to support the public improvements, and not the casino itself, reports KETV Omaha.
No one other than the developers testified in favor of the TIF at Tuesday's city council meeting.
Once completed, the complex will feature live and simulcast horse racing, 1200 gaming machines, plus table games, live entertainment, and a sports bar. Construction is expected to be completed by the fall of 2022.
The casino is expected to employ around 500 full and part-time workers.