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Proposed Bellevue horse track, 'Belle Vue Downs' gets pushback

Posted at 6:44 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 19:58:11-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — The horse track, which if built would also add a casino, got pushback from people who say it would be too close to the Omaha horse track casino.

It was a packed house for what used to be a fairly obscure and mundane board meeting.

The recently renamed Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission heard testimony Friday to add five new horse tracks in the state — all of which would inevitably add casinos after voter approval last year.

This includes a new horse track and an eventual casino in Bellevue which be called Belle Vue Downs.

“This project works ideally in our community,” said Rusty Hike, Mayor of Bellevue.

Mayor Rusty Hike had the initial idea and pushed the plan. Then he brought on John Hassett, a keno operator, to plan, build and run the proposed horse track.

Hassett said it will bring people in suburban Omaha and Iowa to Bellevue to catch high-level racing and of course gamble.

“That will be bringing money into Nebraska. So not only do we want to keep the money in Nebraska, but we want to bring money into Nebraska,” said Hassett.

Currently, there are already plans to revamp Horsemen’s Park in Omaha with the new War Horse Casino. War Horse casinos would also be in Lincoln, Grand Island and Norfolk if approved.

Lance Morgan, who runs War Horse worries about the Omaha and Bellevue locations being too close.

“What I’m worried about is, if we put one in Bellevue, it’s going to clip off just enough to impact our financing — it’s going to make us come out with two weak competitors,” said Morgan.

He's worried the two Nebraska locations would split up Nebraskans, and eventually, people would just go back to Iowa.

“If you have two weaker competitors, people will go back to Council Bluffs and also impacts the property tax situation,” said Morgan.

Hassett thinks the opposite. He said the extra competition would give people more options in Nebraska, and spread the tax dollars around.

“I think the idea behind what most of the voters wanted was 'Keep the money in Nebraska'...they want to generate tax revenue. I think two casinos close to the Iowa border would be much more effective doing that than one,” said Hassett.

The board also evaluated options for horse tracks in York, North Platte, Gering and Norfolk but final decisions won’t be made for months.

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