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Lincoln track hopes to mix in more live racing with casino construction
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Lincoln track hopes to mix in more live racing with casino construction

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Lincoln Race Course 11.2

Jockey Scott Bethke pushes Jamaican Me Money (2) into the lead at Lincoln Race Course earlier this month. The track expects to have 12 days of live racing next year.

For the first time since racing in Lincoln moved from State Fair Park, horses could run on more than 10 dates next year.

The Nebraska Racing Commission approved 61 days of live racing in 2021 at a meeting held Tuesday in Lincoln.

That’s nine more than the minimum needed to maintain 2022 simulcast licenses, as per state law.

Chairman Dennis Lee said it remains to be seen how the pandemic will affect racing.

“We went through this last year with a great amount of anticipation and you saw what happened," Lee said. “We honestly don’t know what the environment will be when we plan to start racing in February."

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Omaha’s Horsemen’s Park will run two days in early May. General Manager Mike Newlin said the potential to run live races in Omaha is compromised because of planned construction that will convert the simulcast facility into a casino.

Earlier this month, voters in Nebraska approved casino gambling at the state's horse racing tracks.

Newlin, who also is general manager of Lincoln Race Course, said construction of a casino also will be ongoing at that facility. The Lincoln track requested 12 live race days in 2021, with the dates to be determined.

Newlin said because there's more room at the track in southwest Lincoln, it may be possible to run a live meet as construction continues.

Before the first race in Lincoln, Newlin said he hopes to have the first of several planned barns in place in order to house horses as live racing expands in the future, thanks to casino revenues.

The newly constructed 7-furlong track at Lincoln Race Course is the longest in the state.

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“I can see a time when we run 70 days in Lincoln and 30 in Omaha," he said. “It’s finally starting to look like we have a bright future for Nebraska racing."

Other dates set Tuesday: Atokad Park in South Sioux City, one day (July 1); Ag Park in Columbus, 15 days (Aug. 16-Sept. 6); Hastings, one day of quarter horse racing (date to be determined).

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Mike Patterson of the Omaha World-Herald contributed to this report.

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