The first results are in, and spending on charitable gambling does not appear to have been impacted by the advent of casinos in Nebraska — at least not yet.
In the last quarter of 2022, Nebraskans wagered $97.2 million on keno, pickle cards, bingo and the state lottery, a nearly 5% increase over the months of July, August and September, according to a report issued Thursday.
The state’s first, legal gambling casino, the WarHorse Casino, opened in late September at Lincoln’s Thoroughbred racetrack, providing new competition for charitable games.
But Brian Rockey, the state lottery and charitable gaming director, said Thursday that despite the figures, it’s probably too soon to say whether competition from casinos will hurt other forms of gaming.
“When the full blown casinos are open, it might be different,” he said.
WarHorse Casino is operating in a converted simulcast facility until a $200 million casino and hotel complex is built around it, in southwest Lincoln. A casino that opened at Grand Island’s Fonner Park racetrack is also operating in temporary quarters.
A temporary casino at Omaha’s Horseman’s Park racetrack isn’t expected to be ready until this spring.
Nebraska voters legalized casino gambling in 2020, which permitted such gambling only at licensed racetracks. Part of the proceeds were earmarked for property tax relief.
Rockey said state lotteries in other states have seen a 10% drop in wagering once casinos arrived. But, he said, that’s probably a worst-case scenario.
The only form of charitable gaming that saw a decrease during October, November and December was bingo, with wagering dropping from $1.2 million during the third quarter to $1.1 million during the last quarter.
So-called “racinos” are planned at racetracks in Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus, Grand Island, South Sioux City and Hastings.
A bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature seeks to allow casinos west of Cozad.