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US – Harrah’s casino and racetrack approved by Columbus council

By - 3 March 2022

Columbus Exposition and Racing (CER) and Caesars Entertainment have now had its plans to operate a Harrah’s casino and racetrack in Columbus, Nebraska, approved by the Columbus City Council.

Mayor Jim Bulkley said: “I think it’s important to recognize this proposal was in front of planning and zoning a week ago (and) it was aired there and had the ability for the public to come forward and give their inputs. There was no negative feedback that came back. Again here this evening there has been no negative feedback.”

The approximately $75m casino development, conveniently located off of Highway 81 in Columbus, is expected to feature a new one-mile horse racing surface, a 40,000-square-foot-casino and sportsbook with more than 400 slot machines and 20 table games, as well as a restaurant and retail space.

The venue is expected to open in late 2022.

Tom Jackson, Managing Partner of CER, said at the project’s announcement last July: “As we work to create a new entertainment destination for the Midwest, this partnership will be an important economic driver and job creator for Columbus and the surrounding communities. It also further reinforces our commitment to the hardworking people involved in the Nebraska horse racing industry. We look forward to providing new gaming and entertainment experiences to our valued customers.”

“When Nebraska voters opened up gaming at racetracks, we knew that our experience in the casino industry combined with our commitment to horse racing made Harrah’s a perfect fit,” said Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. “We look forward to creating an all-new Harrah’s experience in Columbus and connecting it to our Caesars Rewards network across the country.”

“Beyond the onset of casino gaming in Nebraska, we are thrilled with the opportunity to transform horse racing in Columbus,” said Joe Morris, SVP of Racing at Caesars Entertainment. “The opportunity to build a new, first-class track at our property illustrates our commitment to the racing industry and our intent to carry on the area’s storied racing tradition.”

Live Horse Racing has been part of the Columbus community for more than 75 years. CER board members Tom Jackson, Dan Clarey, Russell Placzek, Chad Sucha and Dennis Hall have operated Live Racing and Simulcasting at Ag Park since 2013. Columbus and surrounding counties continue to support Live Racing with Blanket Races sponsored by local businesses, class reunions and memorials.

There is still some confusion as the eventual number of casinos that will open in Nebraska. Some believe that the constitutional amendment puts no restriction on the number of casinos but others, claim that the approval of venues at racetracks only implies the already existing six tracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus, Grand Island, South Sioux City and Hastings.

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