Santa is bringing a casino to Grand Island this year.
The new temporary casino at Fonner Park is expected to be open by Christmas. Fonner Park Executive Director Chris Kotulak hopes the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission will give final approval to operate the casino on Dec. 14.
Vince Fiala, who will be the general manager of the casino, is also optimistic that the commission will give the OK.
The temporary casino is built inside the Fonner Park concourse. Work began on September 8.
When it opens, it will have 280 slot machines and kiosks for live and simultaneous horse racing betting.
“The Racing and Gambling Commission wanted to make sure that the races had a presence and I appreciate that, so they asked that we add extra television monitors and some betting terminals where people can bet on horse racing in addition to any games of casino they have. “they’re playing” in the temporary center, Kotulak said.
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People will still be able to bet on simulcast and live races at the Finish Line restaurant, where keno operations will also continue.
The footprint of the hall will not change. Improvements made to the interior include the construction of a long wall 30 feet high.
Among other things, the temporary casino will also include a snack bar.
Kotulak hopes workers will begin laying carpet this week.
Elite Casino Resorts, which is Fonner’s casino partner, is paying for the remodeling.
The casino will be open from 8:00 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, games will start at 8am and continue until 3am the following morning.
Table games (craps and blackjack) will likely be added a few months after the temporary casino opens.
Although there will be multiple entrances, the main entrance will be through the Heartland Events Center vestibule.
The temporary casino will be used for two or three years. The permanent casino probably won’t open until 2024 or 2025.
The temporary casino will have approximately 100 employees. People are hired and trained in the 4-H Cafe in Fonner Park.
The permanent facility will be known as the Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park.
When the permanent casino opens, the Nebraska State Fair will benefit from the improved concourse, Kotulak said.
“Once the temporary operations stop here, they’re going to have a nicer, climate-controlled area than what they had before,” he said.
The Finish Line restaurant will remain as is for several years before being updated, Kotulak said.