It’s official: Nebraska’s first casino has now opened its doors to the public. WarHorse Casino made state history on Saturday, marking the first pull of a slot machine in Lincoln. The grand opening ceremony drew hundreds of gaming enthusiasts, seeking to try their luck at the brand new property.
The casino opened its door to the public at 10 a.m., but the ceremony began some time earlier than that, with Tribal Elder and member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska’s Tribal Council Ken Mallory placing a bet at around 9:30 am. By the time the venue started welcoming the general public, over 100 guests were waiting outside to be some of the first inside the casino.
At 10:45 a.m., just shy of 150 people were inside the 850-capacity building, a temporary casino at the Lincoln Race Course Thoroughbred, with more still arriving. Parking lots were full, and according to Lynne McNally, CEO of the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, that flow remained steady throughout the day, reports Lincoln Journal Star.
Casino goers were impressed by the breadth of the temporary space, and the number of slot machines. For its transitory casino, WarHorse converted a simulcast/sports bar facility to accommodate 433 slots, while construction of the full $200 million casino and hotel complex moves forward.
Come join us! ? pic.twitter.com/7v607GHim1
— WarHorse Lincoln (@WarHorseLincoln) September 24, 2022 “We’ve worked so hard to get to this day that it’s unbelievable, it’s a dream come true,” said Lori Thomas, Chief Operating Officer for the Nebraska Horsemen, according to Journal Star. “For us, it’s about bringing a new source of revenue to Nebraska. Watching all these people be happy is just the icing on the cake.”
Thomas described the excitement in the room as “contagious” as attendees celebrated having a state-licensed casino within the state’s borders for the first time. WarHorse Lincoln’s opening makes it the first non-native casino in the state to open nearly two years after Nebraska voters approved casinos at the state’s licensed horse racing tracks.
Saturday’s event brought out people from not only Lincoln but also other parts of the state to take in the casino, reports KOLN. The Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission granted WarHorse Lincoln its license on Friday, paving the way for the historic opening.
“It’s a big day, we’ve been working on this for years, and to finally just be able to open the door…” said Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk Inc. “It’s a modest start, but we’re gonna build a big facility around it. It’s just a taste of what’s to come.”
Expansion plans to the casino are slated to be complete by next September and include more slot machines, gaming tables, a steak house, and a hotel, among other new features. According to its developers, it could have upward of $5 million in revenue in the first year. Ho-Chunk Inc. and the Nebraska Horsemen are also partnering for casinos in Omaha and South Sioux City.