Nebraska rushes to build a horse truck, despite having few fans

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Grand Island, Nebraska (AP) — Horse racing is held regularly in only two locations in Nebraska. Grand Island and Columbus trucks are usually fairly quiet, with the exception of thoroughbred barks trampling on half-empty stands.

But suddenly, the state-wide community is clamoring to revive the mothball truck and build a new one.

Why is there a growing interest in sports that has declined nationwide for decades?

In a word, casino..

“Suddenly there are a lot of communities where you don’t care about horses.” Hey, we love horses! “Said Pat Loontjer, director of the anti-casino group Gambling with the Good Life.

Indeed, gambling can follow a detour route when it finally enters the shutout market. In Nebraska, people are given something they don’t want to get the game options they want — more races — at huge millions of dollars. And many operators who offer casino games may be excluded from action.

There are commercial or Native American casinos in 46 states with annual revenues of over $ 30 billion.However, Nebraska has only five small tribal casinos in isolated areas, and gambling proponents have been complaining for years about all the tax revenues lost when gamblers in the Omaha region pour across the Missouri River. rice field Gambling at Iowa next door..

Supporters after repeated failures in the Nebraska Legislature Obtained 2020 approval for a voting initiative to legalize private gambling.. However, they added the habit that casinos can only be opened where there are state-licensed horse trucks. Suddenly, the state’s most popular real estate is on six qualifying tracks, four of which currently offer only one live race per year. Five other Nebraska cities are also proposing plans for new horse trucks.

For an industry that has struggled to attract attention for years, the sudden acceptance of sports is strikingly serious, even about finding enough jockeys, exercise riders, and veterinarians to host a race. Raised a concern. Don’t worry if the audience does. It will actually appear.

Nationally, sports have been declining for decades. Race days have decreased by almost 40% over the last 20 years. Omaha’s once popular Ak-Sar-Ben (reversed spelling of “Nebraska”) racetrack was closed in 1995.

“They could have done this five years ago, but they weren’t interested at all,” said the managing director of the Nebraska Jockey Charity Conservation Society, which owns the only licensed truck in Omaha. Lynn McNally said. “They didn’t really care about the race.”

Legislators have approved a new development moratorium as so many groups have proposed trucks in Nebraska. Investigation will determine the number of tracks that can reasonably operate.. The two proposals announced so far will spend $ 220 million each to update and improve underutilized trucks and add casinos and hotels.

Lance Morgan, a company at Ho-Chunk Inc., has spent $ 7.5 million to finance its initiative campaign and has acknowledged that it includes some trucking requirements to fend off competitors.

Hochunk, a Nebraska-based sect of the Winevago tribe, has signed a contract with the Benevolent Conservation Society of the Knights of Nebraska to share revenue from the new casino that opened on the association’s licensed trucks in Omaha and Lincoln. Meanwhile, truck-less casino operators will be frozen.

“If you’re going to spend that money,” “I want to be the entity most likely to have a casino,” Morgan said in a ballot initiative.

Nebraska is one of the four states that legally link casinos to racetracks, said Christopher Brown, a spokesman for the American Games Association. Other states have set various conditions, such as operating on riverboats, but most have eventually been lifted. The Nebraska bill is difficult to change because it is part of the State Constitution.

Some who raise and race horses in Nebraska said they hope the casino can bring more crowds back into their sport.

“I don’t know if I could have survived longer without casino games,” said racehorse owner Garald “Wally” Wallesen.

Grand Island CEO of Fonner Park, Crisco Turak, keeps his track 40 race days in four months by offering more “minor league” races with a modest wallet compared to other states. I said I could.

But Koturak said he was worried that more trucks would offer racing, which could lead to a shortage of workers.

“Currently, we don’t have enough infrastructure,” he said. “To think we could have another six dozen, or even two more race tracks … where do these people come from?”

Whatever helps the sport, Jahelzer, who sat alone and watched the race on a chilly day in the almost empty bleachers of Phoner Park, is fine. Helzer, 76, said she supported the 2020 voting bill.

“It won’t hurt anything,” Helzer said gesturing in a row of empty seats around him. “I’m here on Friday afternoon and almost no one is here.”

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter. https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte



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