Lincoln Race Course Big Red Keno
The Lincoln Race Course bar is seen with a Big Red Keno draw displayed on television monitors. Big Red says it has the exclusive rights to conduct full-scale casino operations at the venue. (Image: Lincoln Race Course)
Big Red Keno, based in Omaha, Ne., operates keno games at the Lincoln Race Course. The keno firm additionally provides the lottery games at Horsemen’s Park in Omaha. But it is Big Red’s operating contract for Lincoln that the company says has led to legal action against the facility.
Last November, Nebraska voters approved a ballot referendum to amend the state constitution to authorize commercial gambling at the state’s six horse racetracks.
Big Red says its operating agreement to conduct keno games at Lincoln includes a provision that it be afforded exclusive rights to any form of new gaming at the racetrack, the lone exception being pickle cards.
“Despite Big Red Keno’s efforts to discuss the matter with Lincoln Race Course, Lincoln Race Course refused to honor the contract and has proceeded to breach the contract by moving forward with services from another provider,” said attorney Stephen Mossman, who is representing Big Red.
Lincoln Race Course is one of three Nebraska horse racetracks that has decided to partner with WarHorse Gaming, a subsidiary of Ho-Chunk Inc., on its casino expansion.
Omaha Exposition & Racing, which operates the Lincoln Race Course, says it simply leases the track and is therefore not in violation of its Big Red contract.
The racecourse is owned by the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association (NHBPA), a nonprofit that fosters the thoroughbred horse industry in the state. Omaha Exposition says it is the NHBPA expanding gambling at the track, and the association has no contract with Big Red saying it has exclusive rights to new games.
The NHBPA and WarHorse Gaming have proposed building a $220 million casino resort at the Lincoln Race Course. The complex includes a nearly 200-room hotel, casino floor with 1,200 gaming positions, as many as six restaurants, a spa, and an event space. WarHorse plans to open a temporary casino with 300 slot machines later this year once it receives its gaming license from the state.
Big Red is a keno and restaurant operator. It has no experience running a full-scale casino.
Nebraska’s legalization of commercial gambling at the six horse racetracks is likely to hurt Big Red Keno. Though Omaha Exposition says the company can continue to house its keno machines inside the venue, Big Red wants to be compensated for alleged damages related to not being the casino developer and operator.
Big Red Keno filed a lawsuit to protect its gaming rights at the Lincoln Race Course facility, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Big Red Keno is the lottery operator for the City of Lincoln and Lancaster County, and has a contract with Lincoln Race Course to provide keno at their premises,” Mossman said.
“As part of that contract, Lincoln Race Course agreed that Big Red Keno would have the first right to provide any expanded gambling at the track,” he added.