Developers who have unveiled plans to transform the Horsemen’s Park in Omaha into one of the first casinos in the state of Nebraska are waiting for the city to pay tax incentives worth $17.5 million in order to bring the project to an end.
Under the 220-million plan unveiled by WarHorse Gaming Omaha, which operates as a subsidiary to the economic development business of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, has called for a considerable expansion and renovation of the existing Horsemen’s campus. The project is aimed at creating a dynamic casino, racing and entertainment complex that would feature 1,200 gambling terminals, gaming tables and live entertainment options. Furthermore, according to a city document, the planned venue would include a sports bar, central bar area, coffee shop and food hall.
The construction is expected to begin in the middle of this summer and could be brought to an end by September 2022.
Last November, about two-thirds of Nebraska voters gave the don to proposed constitutional amendments to allow casino venues to be established at the six licensed horse racing tracks across the state, in return for some of the proceeds as a tax credit for property owners. The measure was supported by Ho-Chunk Inc. and its approval paved the way for the group to seeks the establishment of casino venues at racetracks in Omaha, Lincoln and South Sioux City.
Economic Viability of the Casino Project without TIF Incentive to Be Considered by Authorities
The above-mentioned tax incentives, officially known as tax increment financing (TIF) is popular, although sometimes controversial redevelopment tool, based on the state law that provides developers with the chance to take out a loan from local authorities and use the money to cover some considerable redevelopment expenses.
In such cases, the loan is expected to be paid back, generally over a 15-year period, by applying increased property taxes imposed on the new development. During the TIF period, the property owner is still expected to pay some property taxes based on a valuation that was carried out before any improvements to the place to be brought. After the TIF loan is paid back, new property taxes of a higher value apply to the improved property.
As previously revealed by project leaders, they expect to spend approximately $6 million on public improvements associated with the project. Some improvements along Q Street are also set to be made.
As for the casino, over 1,400 paved parking stalls are planned to be established, according to a Planning Department memo. Furthermore, the memo also states that the new casino could create about 2,400 jobs, about 520 of which will be permanent full- and part-time jobs.
The request for tax increment financing, however, faced some opposition, as some campaigners have shared fears that it is an abuse of the program. Still, the Planning Board takes a number of factors into consideration when weighing TIF requests, including the possible economical viability of the project without the incentive. According to a memo, the return on the investment that is to be made by WarHorse Casino would be extremely low because of considerable project costs without any financial help from the authorities.