After Decades of Decline, Nebraska Horse Racing Relying on Racinos

The year was 1979. The location: Aksarben racetrack in Omaha. This was a time when horserace betting could draw thousands of spectators, many visiting from out of state. Kotulak said he was blown away.

“When the horses came to town and left, my mother had talked enough sense into me to say: ‘You are going to stay right here and you’re going to finish your schooling,’” Kotulak said with a laugh.

Since the 1980s, the sport has lost popularity in the state and country. Nationally, over the past five years, the industry shrunk by an average of 8.4% – with profits declining by 24%.

In Nebraska, the state has gone from around 100 thoroughbred race days in 2001 to half that by 2021. Aksarben, the one-time crown jewel of Nebraska racing, was demolished in 2005. Now, the area it’s a mixture of businesses and apartments.

Of the six remaining licensed horse racetracks in Nebraska, Fonner Park is by far the largest. Built in 1954, it…

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