American casino and hotel company, Caesars Entertainment Inc. (NASDAQ: CZR), has partnered with Columbus Exposition and Racing in a deal that will see the Reno, Nevada-based firm build and operate a Harrah’s branded casino and racetrack in the city of Columbus, Nebraska.

The approximately $75 million investment will be located off Highway 81 in the county seat of Platte County and in addition to a new one-mile horse racing track, will reportedly feature a 40,000 square foot casino with 400-plus slot machines, 20 table games, and a sportsbook. The property will also include a restaurant and retail space and is expected to be completed in late 2022.

Commenting on the partnership, Managing Partner for the not for profit Columbus Exposition and Racing, Tom Jackson said that choosing a casino operator partner “proved an easy selection,” due to Harrah’s “brand recognition and established code of commitment to its employees, customers and the communities in which they operate.”

Important for the city:

In addition, said Jackson, “their superior rewards program and marketing team, high-performing entertainment network and best-in-class gaming experience check all the right boxes for this partnership.”

He continued…

“As we work to create a new entertainment destination for the Midwest, this partnership will be an important economic driver and job creator for Columbus and the surrounding communities. It also further reinforces our commitment to the hardworking people involved in the Nebraska horse racing industry. We look forward to providing new gaming and entertainment experiences to our valued customers.”

Chief Executive Officer for Caesars Entertainment, Tom Reeg, explained in the official press release

“When Nebraska voters opened up gaming at racetracks, we knew that our experience in the casino industry combined with our commitment to horse racing made Harrah’s a perfect fit,” said Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. “We look forward to creating an all-new Harrah’s experience in Columbus and connecting it to our Caesars Rewards network across the country.”

Sports betting:

On November 4, 2020, Nebraska voters overwhelmingly approved measures giving existing state-licensed horseracing facilities the ability to offer games of chance such as slots. Then, on March 17, 2021, lawmakers in the midwestern U.S. state gave first-round approval to a separate measure that would create regulations to govern the state’s newly legalized casinos upon opening, with legislators reportedly amending a gambling regulation bill for sports betting.

The bill would enable sports fans in the “Cornhusker State” to legally wager on the lion’s share of collegiate and professional events, with the exception of in-state teams’ home games.

Meanwhile, Senior Vice President of Racing at Caesars Entertainment, Joe Morris shared that “beyond the onset of casino gaming in Nebraska,” they are “thrilled with the opportunity to transform horse racing in Columbus.”

He noted that “the opportunity to build a new, first-class track at our property illustrates our commitment to the racing industry and our intent to carry on the area’s storied racing tradition.”

Horse racing tradition:

For more than 75 years, live horse racing has been an integral part of the Columbus community, with AG Park holding its first race meet in 1942. Fast forward to 1987, which was the very first year of intrastate simulcasting, with interstate simulcasting following in 1989. Ag Park is also home to the Platte County Fair.