Racetrack casino regulations updated

A bill updating Nebraska’s gaming regulations for horse racetrack casinos and the commission that governs them passed April 13.

Sen. Tom Briese
Sen. Tom Briese

LB876, introduced by Albion Sen. Tom Briese, changes several provisions of the Nebraska Racetrack Gaming Act, including increasing a number of penalties and raising the operator’s license fee from $1 million to $5 million.

As introduced, the bill would have prohibited a racetrack from being located within 50 miles of another racetrack operating games of chance. Tracks that existed on Nov. 1, 2020, in Adams, Dakota, Douglas, Hall, Lancaster and Platte counties would have been exempt from the prohibition.

An amendment adopted on general file replaced the bill and instead allows an existing racetrack to apply to move to another county in Nebraska that does not have a racetrack subject to commission approval.

The bill also prohibits issuance of new licenses until the commission conducts a statewide horse racing market analysis, a study of the potential casino gaming market and a socioeconomic impact study of horse racing and casino gaming statewide and in each county that has a licensed racetrack. The three studies must be completed by Jan. 1, 2025.

Among other provisions, LB876 increases the duration of a horse racing license from one to five years and requires existing tracks to hold at least five racing days and 50 live races annually by Jan. 1, 2026, and 15 racing days and 120 races annually by Jan. 1, 2031. It also establishes a schedule for tracks built after the bill’s operative date.

Non-compliant tracks will be forced to close until the commission determines that the situation has been corrected.

The measure also includes provisions of Briese’s LB877, which require the State Racing and Gaming Commission to meet at least eight days each year and requires racetracks to pay the commission an increasing percentage of proceeds. Beginning July 1, 2023, the amount will increase to 1 percent of the gross sum of parimutuel wagers placed at the track during the previous calendar year and rise to 2 percent annually on July 1, 2024.

LB876 passed on a 38-3 vote and took effect immediately.

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