Hastings City Council approves plans for proposed casino and horse track
HASTINGS, Neb. — Developers are able to move forward with plans to build a casino and horse track on the north edge of Hastings.
Eight months after the Hastings City Council voted 4-4 against a pair of requests from Prairie Thunder Hastings, LLC, it flipped and voted 6-2 to approve the company’s adjusted plans.
Brian Jorde is legal counsel for the developers. He says they’re relieved after spending more than a year on the project.
“At the end of the day, we want to be the best community steward, so I don’t feel like it’s a victory over the people that were opposed, I feel like it’s an opportunity to bring the community together and work together to put the best product out there,” Jorde said.
There was plenty of opposition. A coordinated write-in campaign turned in more than 800 letters opposed to the project. 24 people spoke against it at Monday’s public hearing compared to five in support. That didn’t sway councilman Butch Eley, who voted for the project both times.
“Everywhere I go, people say, ‘Vote for the casino. Vote for the casino. What do you think of the casino, vote for the casino.' I think that’s the silent majority,” Eley said.
Opponents argued against the location at 42nd St. and Tom Osborne Expressway, worried about an increase in crime and doubted the developer’s economic figures.
“Why would we want to put a casino in one of the most prominent parts of town? Casino ethos are not a part of our community identity," a Hastings resident said. "When I think of a casino, I think of sick people, individuals who are addicted.”
Jorde’s pitch included an estimated $8 million in property tax relief per year, at least 120 new jobs and an opportunity for locals to invest in the project.
But that wasn’t what led Chuck Rosenberg to flip to a yes vote. His change reflected the planning commission’s change from voting 4-3 against the proposal in March, to overwhelmingly supporting it last month.
“I told my dad when I came into business, he reminded me your word is your bond," Rosenberg said. "I said I would always support the planning and zoning commission, so I will be supporting their recommendation tonight.”
The tweaks to the proposal included reducing the amount of land being rezoned and moving the race track and casino to the middle of the property.
Now that it has local approval, the developers will select a gaming partner and submit that group for state approval. Jorde expects to break ground in 2023.
“We’re going to catch our breath. It’s been a long, difficult, expensive road just to get to here," Jorde said. "Then, we’re going to get real busy working with the city, working with the community to move forward.”
Opponents pledge not to give up their fight. One organizer vowed to petition to bring the issue to a public vote.
Yes: Matt Fong, Shawn Hartmann, Chuck Rosenberg, Joy Huffaker, Butch Eley, Ted Schroeder
No: Ginny Skutnik, Jeniffer Beahm