Grand Island Casino Resort at Fonner Park Sets Opening Target

Posted on: March 10, 2024, 03:21h. 

Last updated on: March 10, 2024, 03:22h.

Officials with Grand Island Casino Resort, one of five casinos under construction in Nebraska, have unveiled when they hope to open the $100 million destination.

Grand Island casino Nebraska Elite
The Grand Island temporary casino is housed inside the Heartland Events Center at the Fonner Park horse racetrack. Officials with Elite Casino Resorts say the permanent casino resort at the racetrack will open early next year. (Image: WOWT)

Iowa-based Elite Casino Resorts has announced that it hopes to open the casino at the Fonner Park horse racetrack in the first quarter of 2025. Grand Island Casino Resort Marketing Director Alison Nicholson first revealed the news to Central Nebraska Today.

Elite broke ground on the $100 million project last November. Grand Island’s temporary casino, which opened in December 2022, is helping bankroll the development. The provisional gaming space has more than 300 slot machines, eight live dealer blackjack, roulette, and craps tables, and sports betting.

Grand Island’s temporary casino won almost $30 million in 2023, with $27.8 million from slots and $1.8 million from tables. Oddsmakers won about $245,000. Nebraska taxes casino revenue at 20%, meaning Elite kept about $24 million of the Grand Island gaming win.

Elite recently shared a bit of the gaming windfall with the Central Nebraska Humane Society. The company said its “Giving Back Program” where guests receive $10 in slot play in exchange for a $10 cash donation resulted in Grand Island raising almost $4,000 for the animal shelter.

Grand Island Details 

Fonner Park was one of six horse racetracks that Nebraska voters in 2020 approved for a commercial casino through a statewide ballot referendum. Fonner Park owner Hall County Livestock Improvement Association partnered with Elite to redevelop the property into a casino destination.

The $100 million build will result in a 37,000-square-foot casino floor with 750 slots, 20 live dealer table games, and an Elite Sportsbook. An on-site 162-room boutique hotel with rooms overlooking the Fonner Park racetrack will be accompanied by several restaurants highlighted by Ruthie’s Steak & Seafood. An indoor and outdoor pool and full-service spa are also being built.

My goal is to bring a touch of Las Vegas to Grand Island with fun and excitement for all of the community,” Nicholson said.

Grand Island is in Central Nebraska just north of Interstate 80 and the Platte River.

Elite Casino Resorts operates three casinos in Iowa — Riverside Casino and Golf Resort, Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort in Larchwood, and Rhythm City Casino Resort in Davenport. Elite also operates Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort in Carterville, Il.

Third Permanent Casino

Grand Island is on pace to be the third permanent casino resort to open in Nebraska. The first is expected to be WarHorse Casino Omaha at Horsemen’s Park, which is targeting a summer 2024 opening.

WarHorse Omaha is from Ho-Chunk, Inc., in partnership with the Nebraska Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA). WarHorse Omaha will offer 800 slots, 20 table games, and a sportsbook when the permanent facility opens.

The NHBPA in 2020 contracted WarHorse Gaming, a subsidiary of the Winnebago Tribe, to build and operate its racetrack casinos, which additionally includes the Lincoln Race Course.

Construction on the Lincoln casino resort is also underway, with the project expected to be ready in late 2024. WarHorse Lincoln will feature over 1,100 slots, over two dozen table games, sports betting, and a 220-room hotel.

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