Editorial Brief: Nebraska

Lincoln Journal Star. November 27, 2022.

Editorial: After one month, the casino shows revenue potential

In 2020, supporters of the initiative that would allow casinos at the state’s horse tracks made a compelling case that offering gambling there would keep the wagered money and tax dollars it generates in Nebraska, rather than see it cross missouri river to iowa casinos.

After only one month of operation of a casino, this prediction is confirmed – in the millions.

Lincoln’s WarHorse Casino, which opened in late September, generated just over $854,000 in gambling tax revenue in October, according to information released by the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission.

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The state gaming tax is 20 percent of revenue, which means WarHorse earned about $4.27 million last month. Assuming an average payout of 90%, the industry standard, that means visitors dropped nearly $43 million last month, or nearly $1.4 million per day on WarHorse slots.

Across the river in Council Bluffs, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission reported that players spent about $320 million in October on slot machines at Ameristar, Harrah’s and Horseshoe casinos. That’s down from $331 million in September and $339 million in October 2021.

There are, of course, a myriad of reasons why Council Bluffs’ gambling revenue has fallen by more than $10 million in previous months, most notably the idea that inflation has caused many to cut back on discretionary spending and gambling is purely discretionary .

But some, if not most, of that decline has to be attributed to Nebraskans playing the slots at WarHorse rather than driving to Council Bluffs to do so.

Nebraska gambling is sure to grow in a few weeks when the Grand Island Resort Casino opens its temporary facility at Fonner Park. And they’ll jump again in the spring when Omaha’s WarHorse Casino opens its doors.

It remains to be seen how much Grand Island and Omaha casino gambling will reduce the amount of money wagered in Lincoln, as some of those who came to WarHorse will surely go to one of the two closer to their homes. .

But overall, more and more Nebraska money will stay in Nebraska, which, as the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission report shows, is a very good thing for Nebraska taxpayers.

That is, in the first 38 days, WarHorse generated $1.14 million in fees. Of that, nearly $800,000 — 70 percent of the total — goes to a fund that will provide relief to the state’s property taxpayers. The city of Lincoln and Lancaster County, which each receive 12.5 percent, got nearly $143,000. And the state general fund and compulsive gamblers assistance fund each received more than $28,000.

Extrapolating that number to the same level of revenue, WarHorse will generate nearly $11 million in tax revenue in its first year.

That’s $11 million that will give property owners a tax break and go to, say, fill some potholes or pave county roads, pay for park improvements or other city and county projects. It will be paid for entirely by the players, not the general taxpayer – another argument in favor of casino gambling that has materialized in just one month of gambling at a single casino.

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