Construction of temporary casino to begin after Nebraska State Fair |
Construction of a temporary casino at Grand Island’s Fonner Park is scheduled to begin in September, after the Nebraska State Fair.
Fonner Park General Manager Chris Kotulak gave the Rotary Club of Grand Island Noon an update Tuesday on the upcoming “Grand Island Casino Resort” planned for the campus, via Elite Casino Resorts.
The plan is to “start as soon as possible after the fair,” Kotulak said.
The State Fair ends on Labor Day, September 5.
“Two days later, we will start the demonstration in the hall,” he said.
Kotulak showed a layout of the racetrack contest area, which will house the temporary casino.
“The plan is to get the slots going, and as we get closer to the opening date of the resort, the permanent casino and hotel, when that’s ready to open, that’s when when they will probably incorporate some of the table games. Or, they will do it right away,” he explained.
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The temporary casino is expected to open around Thanksgiving 2022. It will be operational for “at least two years.”
“Throughout we said we weren’t just going to open up a metal shed and add slots and say it’s done,” Kotulak said. “We want people to have as good of a customer experience as possible without the end result.”
A 30-second commercial for the temporary casino will be airing soon, Kotulak announced. It was shown at the club.
The spot states, “Get ready, Nebraska! Grand Island Casino Resorts temporary casino is coming soon to Fonner Park! Get in on the action!”
The temporary casino will feature 300 slot machines, live table games and “the thrill of winning”.
Applications are accepted via grandislandresort.com.
Construction of the permanent casino will take place after the 2023 State Fair, following the racing season, a series of events and livestock shows, and planned infrastructure upgrades on the campus grounds, Kotulak said.
A five-story hotel is planned above the casino, which will be located on the north side of the existing clubhouse. The casino will offer games on the ground floor and, above, an indoor/outdoor pool with “biergarten”.
Vince Fiala, who has worked for Elite Casinos for 14 years, was appointed Managing Director in April 2021.
Nebraska voters have authorized the expansion of casino gambling in the state through a trio of ballot measures in 2020.
The Grand Island facility is one of six initial casino projects slated to move forward in Nebraska. Projects have already been launched at Omaha and Lincoln racetracks, both of which intend to operate temporary casinos.
Kotulak called the upcoming station a “really big thing”.
“Over the past couple of months, it’s become more of a reality that this is going to happen,” he said. “There was a lot of uncertainty with the legislation we needed to help solidify this new industry in our state. It took a lot of help. »
The project was also affected by supply chain issues and rising costs due to inflation. The plans have also undergone some changes.
“At one point we thought there would be a temporary facility that would be built at the north end of the racecourse, completely separate from the building,” he said. “It has since been cleaned up.”
An advantage for the racecourse is that, thanks to the income from the casino, Fonner Park will be able to increase the purses for its races and accommodate more horses.
The facility can accommodate up to 1,000 horsepower. In recent years, it has welcomed around 750.
“In the 70s and 80s our stable was full and people parked their horses off the field and just carried them around to race that day. There were maybe 1,200 horses fighting to get in and run here. It’s not like that anymore,” Kotulak said.
When asked if the casino would “help or hurt” pari-mutuel bets on the track, Kotulak said that with slots, they plan to “take a hit”.
“We don’t know exactly how that’s going to feel,” he said, “because what we’ll lose from our mutual grip, with the deal we’ve made with Elite, that’s going to help us with our revenue. , then we’ll be able to put that back into the purse money and if we have more purse money, we’ll have more horses and fuller fields, so that will help.
Another benefit, he said, is that the casino will help expose more people to the racetrack.