Nebraska Goes Backward, Props Up Dying Racing Industry

“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.

5 Comments

  1. Fonner got all excited that during the height of the COVID pandemic they were the only race track running, so they made crazy amounts of money. Now they are coming back down to reality. They continue to use the windfall they had as a false front to continue their dying (in more ways than one) business.

  2. Very disappointing and isn’t it unbelievable how this business continues to stretch its tentacles into the pockets of taxpayers and private business profits to support it because it can’t support itself?
    Every single politician who was part of this process (because the public had no say) should be known and requested through public records.
    These back room deals are always announced after the ink is dry with little to no public consultation.
    It’s a sham and a shame that horse racing killers are now being endorsed and supported by state endorsed deals.
    Then there’s progress elsewhere because CDI (Churchill Downs Inc.) who was the largest racetrack operator before Frank Stronach came along wanted out of horse racing a long time ago.
    I know this because we were shareholders (small ones), but I attended some meetings in their boardroom back around 1999 – 2000.
    CDI and shareholders wanted to diversify their financial portfolio and get away from horse racing.
    If it wasn’t for the Kentucky Derby they would have probably bailed a long time ago.
    They just finalized the deal with a private business entity called Blackstone for 291 million – that’s 2.5 million per acre.
    I contacted somebody (who wants to remain anonymous) at Blackstone and they confirmed that there will be NO HORSE RACING there and they WILL NOT support horse racing.
    Evidently, they jumped through major legal hoops and thwarted the attempts by Frank Stronach and the Florida HBPA to dictate what they could and could not do.
    There is going to be a massive casino, hotel, food and retail development that is going to create THOUSANDS of jobs much more than horse racing in Florida, but here’s the best part.
    The revenue from this property, collectively, will bring millions into the Florida public coffers which will increase education and other budgets.
    Then the person told me this: they’ve conducted a study of the value of land that Belmont sits on for potential future purchase and that property, in the current market, is worth 3.5+ million PER ACRE.
    Now, hello NY politicians and NY Residents – Belmont sits on 430 acres of land!!
    If it followed the business model in the current Calder conversion that would translate to BILLIONS into the public coffers, beautiful upgraded multi-use of the land with THOUSANDS of jobs.
    Of course the millions into the public coffers would provide money to increase education budgets.
    My God – what in the hell are they waiting for?
    This is a no-brainer and all for what?
    For racehorses to run in circles while being mangled and killed for old men, predominantly, to gamble on with nobody replacing those aging demographics while the majority of NY residents want nothing to do with horse racing.
    Just think about the land that Santa Anita and Golden Gate sits on??
    It’s so overdue to get rid of this antiquated business model and for our elected politicians to press the restart button and start to make some better business decisions that entire communities can benefit from.

    • Gina, Delmar prime oceanfront property and Monmouth in NJ…same oceanfront property.

  3. This is extremely disappointing for the horses!!!!! It’s disgusting that a 76 year-old horse racing fan can say it’s not going to hurt anything! It’s going to hurt a lot! Aside from the horses being routinely abused, tortured and killed, many people residing in Nebraska are going to suffer from more food insecurity as a consequence of having the money going to prop up the race tracks instead of the basic necessities that all communities need.

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