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Off to the races: Caesar’s unveils plans for racetrack at Columbus Harrah’s



Since the allowance of gambling in the state of Nebraska, the Harrah’s project on the west side of Columbus has seen a lot of announcements regarding plans. This week, they highlighted the biggest news: a mile-long racetrack, the longest thoroughbred racetrack in the state.

The racetrack will accompany the casino facility planned for the former Wishbones property along Highway 81. Columbus’ existent racetrack qualified the city for a casino, but the new racetrack will allow for a new experience. Construction of the facility was approved in December of 2022.

Caesars Entertainment Regional President Todd Connelly said the racetrack concept harkens back to Columbus and Platte County’s horse-racing history, and demonstrates Caesar’s commitment to the community by making it a point B between Iowa and Colorado’s markets. It will also be Caesars’ first casino in Nebraska.

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“It’s a new jurisdiction for us, it connects Iowa and Colorado which we’re already in a new state to show off our brand and a new community for us to partner with to offer exclusive first-class entertainment. It’ll also help revive the horse racing industry in Nebraska,” Connelly said.

Connelly added that of the places that could host a Caesars racetrack in Nebraska, Columbus Exposition and Racing (CER) was first to reach out with a proposal. 

“There were only five tracks, five places with legacy tracks we could have a casino. CER picked us based on how we operate, our commitment to the Columbus community and first class operations,” Connelly said.

In a press release issued March 2, Caesars Senior Vice President of Racing Joe Morris said the track pays homage to the horse-racing days of yore in Columbus and Platte County, which Caesars is excited to bring to the area in addition to their already-underway 28,000 square foot facility.

“Horse racing has been ingrained in the history of Columbus for decades. We’re thrilled to contribute to that history and bring an all-new, one-mile racetrack for the community to enjoy,” Morris said in the press release.

At a community gathering at the Elks Club on March 2, the Columbus Harrah’s Casino and Racing Team presented a check for $5,000 toward the Columbus Community Hospital Fieldhouse project. Mayor Jim Bulkley, CER’s Tom Jackson, Dan Clarey, Dennis Hall, Russell Placzek and Chad Sucha, members of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and the contractor for the facility, Whiting-Turner, all attended.

Previous plans revealed that Caesars would be building a casino facility that would fit over 500 slot machines and 14 table games, as well as a sportsbook facility. There will also be a Brew Brothers bar on-site, a Marriott hotel and a bar named Wishbones in homage to the former occupant of the lot.

In the meantime, a temporary facility is in progress in the exhibit hall of Ag Park, which will feature over 200 slot machines and a live-cast horse-racing betting platform that will allow visitors to wager on races in other cities and even countries. The temporary facility is set to open sometime in mid-2023.

“This is a huge milestone for the company, and we’ve been working hard to bring it to life. We were honored to be joined by our partners and have the support of the local community during today’s event. We’re looking forward to welcoming the people of Columbus and beyond when we open our doors in 2024,” Connelly said in the press release.

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