Canterbury Park Holdings introduces casino proposal to Kimball

KIMBALL, NE — A full house Wednesday evening in Kimball.

The town’s city council and the Kimball County Commissioners held a joint meeting hearing a proposal to bring a casino and horse track to the area.

"We are not here to start construction tomorrow," Canterbury Park Holdings representative Mark Montross said. "We are here on the first step to hear your input. Our board is adamant that the local community's support must be there for any project we move forward with."

Canterbury Park Holdings wants to build the complex just north of Interstate 80 west of Highway 71. Montross says he sees plenty of potential in the county. Kimball County is the only one to border both Colorado and Wyoming.

"We are not here to be your local, neighborhood casino," Montross said. "We are here to be a true destination resort that drives an economic engine into the area."

Along with the track and casino, the complex includes a hotel and event center. With Nebraska’s gaming tax, Montross estimates they would pay $6.6 million to the state annually with $1.6 of that staying at the county and local levels. They would pay another estimated $1 million to local governments through property tax.

Multiple residents, speaking in favor of the project, talked about the financial benefits it could bring to the area.

"Those lodging taxes, sales taxes, those support our LB840 program, which goes right back into the community and supports our local businesses." Kimball resident Kathy Porter said. 

"I hope this group and the community will step forward as one more possibility of helping Kimball grow," resident Jerry Williams said.

Others speaking in favor included Kimball Economic Developer Elyse Schlake-Lukassen and Mary Lynch Elementary Principal Jamie Soper.

Some others, don’t like the idea. Don Olsen used to live in New Jersey. He says a town there went downhill after a casino moved in.

"They brought in porn shops," he said. "They had hookers coming over, prostitutes coming over. That's human nature, but it's going to happen, let me tell you something. I'm against it. That's all I have to say."

Other residents who are against brought up concerns about noise.

Some are still on the fence. Julia Gehrig says she wants more information before throwing her support behind it.

"It could be a really good thing, but I think we need to look more into how the citizens are actually going to benefit," she said.

Both the city council and county commissioners approved sending letters in support of license approval to the Nebraska Racing and Gaming Commission. Canterbury Park Holdings would have to get racing and gaming licenses from the commission before moving forward with the project.