“In Nebraska, to get gaming options they want, people are being given something they don’t want – more racing – at a cost of untold millions.” – Associated Press, 6/17/22
Nebraska currently has just two regularly-running commercial tracks – Columbus and Fonner. Columbus finished its “season” Saturday, 12 racedays in all. Fonner wrapped up in May, with 37 days of racing in 2022. There are four other tracks in the state – Lincoln, Horsemen’s, Fair Play, and Atokad – but each of those ran just a single day this year; what’s more, the first three held only one race (Atokad ran but three). Odd, huh? But wait there’s more.
In this clearly depressed (for the racing product, that is) landscape, there are plans for more tracks. How can that be? Well, a 2020 ballot initiative legalized private gambling (Nebraska currently has only five small tribal casinos) – but only at sanctioned racetracks. The upshot for the racing people, salvation, as part of the casino revenue will – instead of being sent back to the state for education, human services, and such – be used to fund purses and, I presume, breeding. In the above-referenced article, a Nebraska racehorse owner put it this way: “Without the casino gaming, I don’t know if we could have survived much longer.” And a 76-year-old fan, speaking at near-empty Fonner, added: “It’s [casino funding] sure not going to hurt anything. Here we are, a Friday afternoon, and there’s hardly anybody here.”
While other states (NY, PA) are beginning to seriously reconsider the wisdom of propping up an archaic, mostly nonviable, and, yes, cruel and deadly industry, Nebraska has regressed, both financially and morally. What a shame.